Cuttack:Robin Uthappa (94) struck a blazing half-century and all rounder Irfan Pathan came up with a quickfire 43 to steer India Blue to a respectable 235 for nine against India Red in the opening encounter of the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy tournament at Barabati Stadium on Thursday.
Putting across a strong message to the selectors ahead of the home series against England, Uthappa showed the kind of form he was in and also stitched in an important 87-run stand for the opening wicket with Ajinkya Rahane (28).
However, the advantage of solid start was squandered with the failure of skipper Yuvraj Singh (6) and upcoming youngster Virat Kohli (18) and out of favour stumper Dinesh Kaarthick (0).
Off-spinner Mohnish Parmar dealt the twin blow when he scalped Kohli and Kaarthick from successive deliveries.
Uthappa, whose 106-ball knock was studded with nine boundaries and a six, saw from one end his team slumping from 87 for no loss to 132 for four just after the half-way stage.
When he was six runs short of hundred, the Karnataka batsman pulled one uppishly on his backfoot but only to find Manoj Tiwary at short midwicket.
Uthappa's dismissal put India Blue in a spot of bother but thanks to some sensible batting by Pathan, the team not only managed to get past the 200-run mark but also put up a fighting total on the board.
Laced with four fours and one six, Pathan made 43 runs from 44 balls before he was caught by Manoj Tiwary at long on off the bowling of Praveen Kumar.
Yuvraj Singh walked in to the middle with a huge cheer from the packed stands. The elegant left-hander began watchfully before sending a widish Balaji delivery to the point fence to open his account.
He miscued another one off paceman Vinay Kumar and a leading edge was accepted with glee by his counterpart S Badrinath.