Yuvraj Singh bludgeoned his way to a 56-ball 84 and gave the national selectors another timely reminder of his worth even as Abhishek Nayar slammed a 39-ball 75 to take India Blue to the final with a 11-run win over India Red in the NKP Salve Challenger Series here today.
Sent into bat, India Blue posted an imposing 345 for four before bowling out the opposition for 334 in 49.5 overs at the Holkar Cricket Stadium.
The match was as good as over for India Red with the Yusuf Pathan-led side needing 38 in the last two overs.
However, Umesh Yadav and Shabhaz Nadeem hit a flurry of boundaries to nearly lead their side to what would have been an improbable win. They collected 15 runs off Bhuvneshwar Kumar to bring the equation down to 23 of six balls.
R Vinay Kumar was smashed for a six and a four before Umesh Yadav lost the steam.
Earlier, both Yuvraj and opener P Akshat Reddy scored 84 runs each but former's knock came off just 53 balls as he punished the India Red bowler with 11 boundaries, including five sixes.
Reddy's 84 came off 96 balls with five fours and two shots over the fence. Abhishek Nayar also tormented the rival bowlers with his fiery unbeaten 75-run knock that came off just 39 balls. Yuvraj and Nayar plundered 151 runs in just 13 overs in their fourth wicket partnership, which ended with former's run out in the last over of the innings.
Now Yuvraj has one century and four half-centuries in his last six matches, after being handed a career lifeline by the BCCI with inclusion in India A team for the series against the West Indies A.
India Red skipper Yusuf Pathan's decision to invite the Blues to bat seemed all right as they had kept the rival batsmen under a leash and had also scalped Naman Ojha cheaply at the start. However, that rejoicing period was short as Reddy found a good partner in Manish Pandey.
They not only negated the early strike but soon put their side in the driver's seat with their determined and fearless batting. They raised a 143-run stand for the second wicket, setting the stage for Yuvraj and Nayar to rip apart the bowlers in the slog overs.
The two batsmen hammered the bowlers to all around the park as India Blue scored 162 runs in the last 15 overs. Nayar hit six four and four sixes in his knock.
None of the Red bowlers could make an impact but medium fast bowler Suraj Yadav was the expensive as he bled 84 runs in his 10-over quota.
India Blue 345/4 in 50 overs (Akshath Reddy 84, Manish Pandey 70, Yuvraj Singh 84, Abhishek Nayar 75 not out) beat India Red 334 all out in 49.5 overs (Abhinav Mukund 83, Smit Patel 68 not out, Kedar Jadhav 49; Vinay Kumar 4 for 76)