Abhishek Nayar has been on the circuit for eight years, producing some performances that have kept him in the reckoning for a place in the National team.
A place in the Mumbai team was earned the hard way, and the next big step — playing for India — was a reward for his diligence.
On Friday afternoon, he came up with a knock that, once again, underlined his potential to dominate, even as Yuvraj Singh continued on his comeback trail with a batting display that was a pleasant reminder of the aesthetics of his batting when under pressure.
India Blue, having beaten Delhi in the opener, rode on big knocks from Akshath Reddy, Manish Pandey, Nayar and Yuvraj to post a target of 346.
The task was daunting, but a remarkable chase by India Red, powered by fine efforts from Abhinav Mukund, Smit Patel, Kedar Jadhav, Ishank Jaggi, fell short by a mere 11 runs.
Four fifty-plus partnerships, two of them close to the century mark, marked India Blue’s innings after India Red chose to bowl.
The moisture in the pitch may have influenced India Red skipper Yusuf Pathan’s decision, but there was no respite for his bowlers despite early success. Pathan had an embarrassing match, mediocre with ball and bat in response to the challenge.
Reddy was impressive as he notched up his second successive half-century, timing the ball comfortably.
This 20-year-old Hyderabad opener is three seasons old but has shown tremendous maturity in the two innings here. However, his dismissals have been to poor deliveries.
Pandey was a busy man at the crease, picking up his runs on either side with ease. His 143-run stand with Reddy was the driving force for India Blue.
. Nayar made the most of personal coach Pravin Amre’s advice to play the ball late.
Yuvraj oozed class, picking the line early in playing his trademark strokes; he hit five sixes, one flat and the rest scattering the spectators in the upper tiers.
Nayar also clouted four sixes, each timed sweetly. His association with Yuvraj was the telling phase that decided the course of the contest.
More than Yuvraj’s wide range of shots, what struck most was his eagerness to run the singles.
India Red started on a wrong note, losing Robin Uthappa to a late swinger from Vinay Kumar.
But a confident Mukund put on a 134 run partnership with Smit Patel, and a chase looked very much on the cards.
Patel suffering from cramps was a setback but Jadhav and Jaggi gave the opposition some anxious moments in the closing stages before succumbing to the asking rate.
India Red meets Delhi on Saturday to seek a place in the final against India Blue.
India Blue: Naman Ojha c Patel b S. Yadav 9 (25b 1x4), Akshath Reddy c Umesh b Mithun 84 (96b, 5x4, 2x6), Manish Pandey b Umesh 70 (86b, 7x4, 2x6), Yuvraj Singh run out 84 (53b, 6x4, 5x6), Abhishek Nayar (not out) 75 (39b, 6x4, 4x6), Ankit Bawne (not out) 0 (1b); Extras (lb-5, w-18): 23; Total (for four wkts. in 50 overs): 345.
Fall of wickets: 1-33 (Ojha), 2-176 (Pandey), 3-190 (Reddy), 4-341 (Yuvraj).
India Red bowling: Umesh 10-0-67-1, A. Mithun 11-1-68-1, Suraj Yadav 10-0-84-1, Nadeem 9-0-44-0, Pathan 6-0-51-0, Gurkeerat 4-0-26-0.
India Red: Robin Uthappa c Yuvraj b Vinay 9 (9b, 2x4), Abhinav Mukund c Vinay b Saxena 83 (86b, 9x4, 1x6), Smit Patel (not out) 68 (84b, 6x4), Kedar Jadhav st Ojha b Chawla 49 (40b,5x4, 1x6), Yusuf Pathan c Bhuvneshwar b Yuvraj 1 (2b), Ishank Jaggi b Chawla 34 (25b, 4x4, 1x6), Gurkeerat Singh c Chawla b Bhuvneshwar 22 (15b, 1x4, 2x6), A. Mithun b Saxena 11 (7b, 1x4, 1x6), Shahbaz Nadeem c Akshath b Vinay 27 (21b, 4x4), Suraj Yadav b Vinay 2 (3b), Umesh Yadav b Vinay 19 (8b, 1x4, 2x6); Extras (lb-3, nb-1, w-5): 9; Total (in 49.5 overs): 334.
Fall of wickets: 1-16 (Uthappa), 2-150 (Mukund), 3-180 (Pathan), 4-248 (Jadhav), 5-249 (Jaggi), 6-262 (Mithun), 7-298 (Gurkeerat, 8-307 (Suraj Yadav), 9-333 (Umesh Yadav).
India Blue bowling: Bhuvneshwar 9-0-74-1, Vinay Kumar 10.5-0-76-4, Chawla 8-0-55-2, Yuvraj 9-0-47-1, Rajpoot 6-0-34-0, Saxena 7-0-45-2.