Saurabh Kumar (5/103) struck gold to guide India ‘A’ to a 113-run win over New Zealand ‘A’ in the third and final unofficial ‘Test’, at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Sunday. The home side wrapped up the series 1-0.
Left-arm spinner Saurabh, who troubled the batters by attacking the stumps, finished with a nine-wicket match haul. His performance was doubly impressive given that he shouldered the bulk of the spin duties in the absence of Rahul Chahar. Leg-spinner Chahar left the field in the morning session with an injury, and bowled just the single over for the day.
Joe Carter (111, 230b, 12×4, 1×6) battled hard for New Zealand. Carter was the ninth wicket to fall, when he charged down the track at pacer Mukesh Kumar and lost his stumps. It was a rash shot from Carter, given that New Zealand ‘A’ was less than an hour away from saving the game.
Sarfaraz Khan, called to bowl to fill the gap left by Chahar, picked up two crucial middle-order wickets in Mark Chapman and Robert O’Donnell. While Chapman mishit a long hop, O’Donnell was pinned on the pads by a flat delivery.
That all five of Saurabh’s wickets came through leg-befores was testament to his nagging accuracy. Batters were most vulnerable when stuck on the crease; a moment’s indecision enough to be caught in front.
A couple of New Zealand ‘A’ batters were unhappy to be given out leg-before, indicating that they got some bat on it.
Fast bowler Umran Malik had trouble overstepping, delivering ten no-balls in the second innings. Malik managed to scalp the wicket of tailender Cam Fletcher, who attempted a hook and fell for an obvious bouncer trap.
On Malik’s transition from white-ball success to the red-ball game, India ‘A’ Head Coach Shitanshu Kotak said, “Umran has done in the IPL and proven himself with the white ball. Umran is very quick. He is the quickest bowler in India. The selectors, (India senior head coach) Rahul (Dravid) bhai, (NCA Director) V.V.S. Laxman and the BCCI have an idea to develop Umran. He is here for us to develop him to get better with the red ball.”
Kotal was all praise for Rajat Patidar, Tilak Verma and Mukesh Kumar, all of whom made their maiden India ‘A’ appearances in this series. Patidar was the standout batter, with scores of 176 and 109 not out. Tilak impressed with a 121 in the first match, while fast bowler Mukesh finished as the joint highest wicket-taker of the series alongside Saurabh (nine wickets).
India ‘A’ skipper Priyank Panchal stated that Chahar did not have any major injury trouble. “Rahul has a niggle. He left the field because we did not want to take any chances, given that there is a long season ahead,” Panchal said.
India ‘A’ (1st innings): 293
NZ ‘A’ (1st innings): 237
India ‘A’ (2nd innings): 359 for seven declared
NZ ‘A’ (2nd innings): Rachin Ravindra lbw b Saurabh 12, Joe Carter b Mukesh 111, Joe Walker b Shardul 7, Dane Cleaver lbw b Saurabh 44, Mark Chapman c Mukesh b Sarfaraz 45, Robert O’ Donnell lbw b Sarfaraz 19, Tom Bruce lbw b Saurabh 19, Sean Solia lbw b Saurabh 8, Cam Fletcher c Sarfaraz b Malik 13, Jacob Duffy lbw b Saurabh 4, Matthew Fisher (not out) 0; Extras (lb-5, w-1, nb-14): 20; Total (in 85.2 overs): 302. Fall of wickets: 1-15, 2-30, 3-115, 4-197, 5-222, 6-253, 7-267, 8-290, 9-301, 10-302
India ‘A’ bowling: Thakur 18-5-44-1, Mukesh 15-3-39-1, Saurabh 27.2-3-103-5, Chahar 1-0-1-0, Malik 15-1-62-1, Sarfaraz 9-0-48-2.