Australia v South Africa, A-team tri-series, Chennai August 5, 2015

Bowlers, openers set up big Australia A win

Australia A 175 for 1 (Khawaja 73, Burns 63*) beat South Africa A 171 (Hendricks 43, Coulter-Nile 3-31) by 9 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-balls details

Fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile and legspinner Cameron Boyce shared five wickets but South Africa A being restricted to 171 was largely a result of their own poor batting. The chase then was rather matter of fact. Australia A won by nine wickets with 19 overs to spare, earning a bonus point to boot.

Most of the South Africa A players are coming together after an off-season and they did not look prepared. They had a 10-day camp at home in the hope of getting themselves game-ready and then a few hits in the nets in Chennai. But come game time, the slowness of the pitch provided too many problems.

After South Africa A elected to bat, Dean Elgar and his opening partner Reeza Hendricks managed well enough, adding 71 runs. But the other nine could only cobble 77 more and needed a leg up from the 23 extras. There were no fifties and 186 out of the 292 deliveries they faced were dot balls. Only two batsmen managed a strike rate above 60 and they could not last the 50 overs. Not the most ideal audition with the senior team set for a 72-day tour of India in October.

Australia A openers Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns, on the other hand, waltzed to their fifties and knocked 142 runs off the target themselves. They stroked 16 boundaries between them.

Hardus Viljoen was smeared for a hat-trick of fours in the sixth over as Khawaja put away ordinary deliveries - a wide one driven through extra cover, one on leg stump whipped through midwicket, and a short one crunched through point. Lonwabo Tsotsobe was clattered for successive fours by Khawaja in the next over and in the eighth, bowled by first-change bowler Beuran Hendricks, Burns benefited from easy pickings: two short balls banished to two ends of the ground at point and deep midwicket. The bad balls, they kept on coming. The good times, they kept on going. Representative of that were the seven no-balls South Africa A bowled. Three of the resulting free-hits were smashed to the boundary.

In contrast, Australia A bowlers gave nothing away. They had the advantage of playing in these conditions for two unofficial Tests and it showed in how tight a middle and off line Coulter-Nile adopted. His first spell read 5-1-13-0. With the rest of his team-mates keeping that pressure up, he had a more profitable second spell: wicketkeeper Dane Vilas was caught down the leg side. Four balls later Khaya Zondo's edge was found. South Africa A, caught in a downward spiral, were 142 for 6 in the 39th over.

But it was legspinner Boyce, who bowled 10 overs on the trot, and left-arm spinner Ashton Agar who initiated that downward spiral. Agar knew that with the batsmen already struggling to adjust to a slow pitch, his best chance was bowl even slower. Boyce, on the other hand, used the crease well, angling the ball on middle and leg, and created doubts in the batsman's mind when a few turned sharply while most did nothing. Their 20 overs cost a measly 60 runs and yielded three of the top four wickets.

So the story of the match ended up quite simple: In walked a South Africa A batsman, he couldn't manipulate the field, he got bogged down, played a rash shot and off he went. Then Boyce and Coulter-Nile kept hitting repeat.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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