Robin Uthapa of India Green celebrates his half-century against India Red during their match in the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy in Nagpur (PTI)
Nagpur: Powered by strokeful centuries from Robin Uthappa and Srikkanth Anirudha, India Green hammered India Blue by 79 runs in a must-win match at the VCA Stadium on Wednesday to set up the title clash of the NKP Salve Challenger tournament against India Red.
Sent in to bat, India Green posted a mammoth 348 for nine, with openers Uthappa and Anirudha setting up the platform for the huge score with their 203-run partnership.
Uthappa, who had retired hurt after completing his century but later came back to bat, produced a scintillating knock of 132-runs from just 103 balls, adorned with 14 fours and three shots over the fence.
Anirudha took 88 balls for 111 runs and helped himself with 13 fours and three sixes.
India Green then shot out India Blue for just 269 in 41.4 overs, with left-arm paceman Samad Fallah being the most successful bowler with three wickets.
India Blue made a spirited start to their chase despite losing Tanmay Srivastava (3) early in the innings as Murali Vijay (45) and Saurabh Tiwary (74) shared a quick-fire 87-run stand for the second wicket.
However when the two batsmen were dismissed, the required run-rate kept climbing up as the remaining batsmen could not score quickly.
Dinesh Karthik (49) and Manish Pandey (32) resisted for some time but their knocks only reduced the defeat margin.
Earlier, Uthappa and Anirudha tore apart the rival attack, hitting fours and sixes almost at will before the former retired hurt after a 203-run stand in just 23 overs.
Uthappa had to retire as he could no longer use a runner under the new rules of the ICC that the BCCI decided to apply in domestic tournaments. He came back to the crease after Ishank Jaggi got out in the 35th over and finally departed for a well-made 132.
The opening duo of Uthappa and Anirudha hit 22 fours and six sixes during their partnership.
Pacer Pradeep Sangwan was once at the receiving end of their ire as he was hit for three sixes in consecutive balls by Anirudha in the fourth over, though he invited the batsman with short balls.
Uthappa was not one to be left behind as three overs later he hoisted Mishra for a huge six. He followed it up with another six off the same bowler and later off Pragyan Ojha.
Sangwan, who conceded four boundaries in the eighth over, was taken off after his first spell of four overs yielded 37 runs.
None of the bowlers came out unscathed as Irfan Pathan conceded 23 from two overs before being taken out while Mishra was equally costly as he bled 26 runs in his first spell of two overs. Parameswaran and Ojha had longer first spells but bled 37 and 33 runs from five overs each, respectively.
The opening duo competed each other in the batting blitzkrieg as India Green's 100 came in the 11th over. Uthappa's 50 came off 33 balls and 100 in 70 balls with 12 fours and three sixes. Anirudha was equally aggressive with his 50 coming from 39 balls and century from 78 balls with 11 fours and three sixes.
Mohammed Kaif, who came in after Uthappa retired hurt, did not stay long at the crease as he was out for 11 six overs later when he was stumped by Dinesh Karthik off Mishra.
That led to a mini-batting collapse as three wickets fell in the space of 16 balls for the addition of only 18 runs.
India Green slumped from 241 for one to 259 for four.
Anirudha was interestingly out off part-timer Murali Vijay as he holed out to deep mid-wicket fielder Tiwary when he tried sending a full toss out of the ground.
Anirudha faced 88 balls for his 111 that he made with the help of 13 fours and three sixes.
Mohnish Mishra (9) and Ishank Jaggi (3) followed suit off Sangwan and Mishra.
Uthappa came back to join Muralidharen Gautam (17) in the middle and the duo stitched 25 runs before the latter got out.
By the time Uthappa was dismissed, the Greens had already crossed 300-run mark.
Harbhajan Singh (18), Sumit Narwal (17), Iqbal Abdulla (8) and Samad Fallah (7 not out) - all contributed to the team's total - to pose a massive target for India Blue.
Sangwan finished with the figures of four for 58, while Amit Mishra (two for 68) and Prasanth Parameswaran (two for 63) claimed two wickets each.