Spinners, Gurkeerat help India A seal trophy
India A 229 for 6 (Gurkeerat 87*) beat Australia A 226 for 9 (Khawaja 76, Karn 3-37) by four wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
India A had called Australia A as the hurdle they haven't been able to cross. Much of that had been down to a lack of control with the ball. On the day of the final, they managed to address that. The four spinners bowled 39 overs between them, took eight wickets between them and went at well under five-an-over. Australia A could not find acceleration - there were only two fours in the last 20 overs. Then Gurkeerat Singh produced a fine, unbeaten 85-ball 87, and India A found the trophy in their hands.
It hadn't been a comprehensive victory though. Mayank Agarwal had reached the safety of his crease, but was hung in mid-air when Chris Lynn's throw found its mark. That ugly mistake caused a collapse - five wickets for 49 runs which included Unmukt Chand popping a catch to short cover and Kedar Jadhav taking a full toss and sweping it straight to deep square leg. Shot selection had been an aspect they had talked about, said coach Rahul Dravid, but there appeared some lessons were still left to be learned. But the required rate always hovering at four or under at the time helped India A stay afloat.
Gurkeerat, batting for the first time in the series, was the game-changer. He made a measured half-century and blunted Australia A at the time when they had been their most aggressive. He had come in at 82 for 4, held back until 137 for 5 and then unfurled classy on-drives to keep his dressing room and the Chennai crowd on the edge. Late cuts, little nudges, cover drives and importantly the resolute forward defensive as India A slowly reclaimed the upper hand. With only 14 runs to win, he went four, six and six to seal the game.
Besides his innings, there were other factors adding to the typical drama of a low-scorer. Sanju Samson was pushed down to No. 8 and the moment he stepped out, Australia A targeted him. There was more than a bit of chirping. Travis Head and Chris Lynn got in his ear even before he'd faced his first ball. Joe Burns got into the act at drinks, and even the umpire intervening didn't quite make a difference. The crowd added to the rancour as well, to the extent that the police had to go into the stands and calm them down.
Australia A needed four wickets, and they knew removing one of these two would bring the bowlers out. This was the crunch. This was where the game needed to be closed out and Indian sides in the past have been lacking in that department. This side, as recently as Monday, couldn't do it with the ball in hand. But today Samson and Gurkeerat managed to weather the hostility and ensured the spinners' good work earlier in the innings meant something.
Simple plans had been laid. India A bowled at the stumps, refused to give batsmen the pace they might have preferred. With a hint of uncertain bounce, getting the spinners away wasn't easy. Karn Sharma and Axar Patel bowled 20 overs that cost a mere 62 and yielded five wickets. The part-timers, Gurkeerat and Karun Nair, chipped in as well - 19 overs for 75 runs and three wickets. There was enough emphasis on getting turn out of the pitch, but a greater one was placed on not offering bad balls. The plan worked to such an extent that India A were able to pull back a quick but scratchy start from Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns. The Australia A captain had as many as three chances - he could have been run out in the second over, Samson spilled a catch in the third and Khawaja only just cleared mid-off the next ball. He capitalised on his luck for a total of 76 runs - his fifth fifty-plus score in six innings. But then the spinners started wheeling away and rest of the line-up could not muster much.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo