MUMBAI: India ‘A’ lost the second unofficial ‘Test’ by 121 runs to South Africa ‘A’ in Pretoria on Monday to finish off a rather successful tour on a slightly disappointing note, but even on the final day of the sojourn, the team showed enough steel to cheer up the fans following its progress.
Chasing 307 on the final day and resuming on three for one, India ‘A’ slipped to a disastrous 18 for five before a fighting 160-run partnership between Ajinkya Rahane (86) and Wriddhiman Saha (77 not out) rekindled hopes of a miraculous win.
Astonishingly, the rest of the batsmen contributed just 25 runs. India thus ended the two-Test series at 1-1, after winning the one-day tri-series (where Australia was the third team) earlier.
The Rahane-Saha ‘Day Four show’ drew admiration from India ‘A’ coach Lalchand Rajput. “It was a very good stand and a great fight back by our boys,” Rajput told TOI from Pretoria on Tuesday.
On Day One India had reduced the hosts to 97 for six, but they couldn’t capitalize on the breakthroughs. They were undone due to a 186-run stand for the seventh wicket between Wayne Parnell (91) and Simon Harmer (96). “At some stage, there had to be a partnership for them,” Rajput reasoned, defending his bowlers.
The man who blew apart the batting in the second ‘Test’ was Beuran Hendricks, a 23-year-old left-arm fast bowler. Hendricks, who plays for Western Province in first-class cricket, took five for 36 and six for 27 to end up with amazing figures of 11 for 63 in the game.
India ‘A’ had decided to rest a few in-form batsmen like Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina. “This trio has been playing non-stop since the Champions Trophy (In England in June). It was time to give them a break,” reasoned Rajput.
The former Mumbai batsman was all-praise for India A’s best bowler on the tour, Ishwar Chand Pandey, who finished with 11 wickets in two games, including a haul of seven for 71 in the first ‘Test’. “His was a performance worth noticing,” Rajput felt.
South Africa ‘A’: 341 & 166-5 decl beat India ‘A’: 201 & 185 ( Ajinkya Rahane 86, Wriddhiman Saha not out 77; B Hendricks 6-27, S JHarmer 3-79) by 121 runs.