Nagpur:Suresh Kumar scored a match-winning 87 to help India Blue beat India Red by one-wicket in a nail-bitting contest at the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy cricket tournament here on Thursday.
Suresh first shared a crucial 57-run fourth wicket stand with pinch-hitter Harbhajan (36 off 36) and then added 55 alongwith Mahendra Singh Dhoni (37 off 40) to set the platform for the run chase.
Out-of-form Ishant Sharma and leg-spinner Ravindra Jadeja were the pick of the bowlers for India Red. Ishant answered his detractors in style, picking up four wickets for 56 runs from his 10 overs, while Jadeja scalped two victims, giving away 36 runs.
Earlier, riding on Harshad Khadiwale's 51-ball 55 and Ishant Jaggi's 54, India Red posted a competitive 248 runs on the board.
For India Blue, Ashok Dinda and Harbhajan Singh picked up three wickets apiece, giving away 52 and 40 runs respectively to bowl out the Red team in 44.4 overs. India Blue's run chase, however, did not start on a good note as they lost their first three wickets with team score at 49.
But then came in Harbhajan, who used his long handle to great effect and together with Suresh set the stage for the others to follow.
Harbhajan was the aggressor among the two as he found the fence six times, while Suresh struck seven boundaries and a six in his 113-ball innings.
Dhoni also chipped in with useful contribution at the middle, hitting two fours in his 40-ball stay at the crease. The match, however, went to the wire when Jadeja got dangerman Yusuf Pathan's (15) wicket with India Blue needing 24 more runs to win with three wickets in hand.
The matter got worse for India Blue when Jalaj Saxena was caught by Khadiwale off Aswin's in the last ball of the 47th over.
New man in S Sreesanth compounded the problem for India Blue as he made a first ball duck, caught by Vijay off Jadeja. But Dinda and Trivedi played sensibly and without going for any extravagant shot, dealt in ones and two to snatch the victory with three balls to spare.
Earlier, Electing to bat, India Red made an explosive start to their innings with Shikhar Dhawan (39 off 39 balls) and Murali Vijay (44 off 35) putting on 79 runs for the opening wicket in just 10 overs.
Vijay was the first to depart, caught by Ojha off Harbhajan in the 11th over but not before hitting four boundaries and two sixes.
Twenty runs later Dhawan too joined his opening partner in the dressing room, giving Ojha his second catch of the day off Siddharth Trivedi's bowling. He struck four fours in his run-a-ball innings.
Captain S Badrinath failed to make any impact as he was run out on four. But from there on Khadiwale and Jaggi played cautiously to add 49 runs for the fourth wicket and set the platform for the total.
The dangerous looking partnership was finally broken by Dinda when he held Khadiwale at the hands of Kedar Jadhav. Yusuf Pathan then got the important wicket of Jaggi, caught by Ojha with India Red scoreboard reading 212 for five wickets after 33.5 overs.
But the India Red lower order failed to capitalise on the platform set by their top order as apart from Ravindra Jadeja (22 off 38) R Aswin (11 off 20) could score double figures.