India A choke, Coulter-Nile steals narrow win
Australia A 298 for 8 (Maxwell 145*, Maddinson 52) beat India A 291 for 8 (Raina 83, Rayudu 70, Rohit 66, Coulter-Nile 3-37) by seven runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
India A had been stunned by an incredible assault from Glenn Maxwell, who had smashed an unbeaten 145 off 79 deliveries to take Australia A to 298 from 152 for 8 in the one-day tri-series in South Africa. They had absorbed that unexpected blow and Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu and Rohit Sharma had responded with fifties to put them on course in the stiff chase. They needed 23 from the last four overs with six wickets in hand and Rayudu in flow. However, Nathan Coulter-Nile stepped up, and India A choked. They lost four wickets and managed 15 runs, with Coulter-Nile delivering a double-wicket maiden in the penultimate over. In stark contrast, Maxwell, in the company of Josh Hazlewood, had looted 59 off the last four in a ninth-wicket stand worth 146 in 13.4 overs.
India A's meltdown started when Coulter-Nile conceded just two singles in the 47th over, tying down Dinesh Karthik. Hazlewood then gave away five off the first five balls of the 48th, and trapped Karthik lbw off the last. Coulter-Nile all but sealed the result in the 49th, removing Rayudu for 70 and Stuart Binny for a duck to go with four dot balls. Sixteen off the final over from Hazlewood was going to be too much for the tail, a sign of how quickly and decisively Coulter-Nile had turned the match.
Lalchand Rajput, the India A coach, said losing Karthik and Rayudu off successive deliveries suddenly derailed the innings but believed the side had a lot to take away from the game. "The wickets of Rayudu and Karthik put a lot of pressure on the incoming batsmen, who had no time at all to get themselves in," Rajput told ESPNcricinfo. "Even if they had had a bit of time, things might have been different. But it was a fantastic game. It is not easy to chase around 300 and we got so close. It is a good learning process for the boys."
Rajput praised Maxwell's big-hitting performance, saying that was the reason he had attracted so much interest in the IPL. Maxwell's reputation as a power-hitter and his all-round ability had earned him a surprise reward in February this year, when he was bought by Mumbai Indians for $1 million in the IPL auction. "We all know how hard he can hit the ball. That is why he went for a million dollars in the IPL. He hit some unbelievable shots. I will not hold anything against my bowlers. They had taken all those wickets and brought us back. We had them at 152 for 8 but it was his day today. "
Maxwell almost doubled Australia A's score with No 10 at the other end. He came in at 122 for 5 in the midst of a collapse following a strong beginning and went on club 18 fours and six sixes.
Fast bowlers Mohammed Shami and Jaydev Unadkat had prospered against the Zimbabwe line-up in the recent ODI series with the senior India team. Here, they ran into Maxwell, who hit them for three successive boundaries each, Unadkat suffering that fate twice. The third fast bowler, Punjab's Siddarth Kaul - one of the six India A players not to have travelled to Zimbabwe - was taken apart for three successive sixes in the final over, also the costliest of the innings at 23 runs.
This was easily Maxwell's highest List A score, beating the previous one of 61. Maxwell's assault was notable as much for how long it lasted as for the fact that it arrived with only No 11 left to come in. He had just kickstarted his acceleration when he reached his first fifty off 47 deliveries. He needed 19 more of them to zoom to his hundred, and 13 thereafter to end five short of 150.
India A's spinners had brought them back strongly after Cheteshwar Pujara asked Australia A to bat and watched them build their way to 120 for 2, with Alex Doolan and Nic Maddinson steering the innings. Raina began the collapse when he had Doolan caught by Pujara for 30 in the 26th over. Two balls later, Maddinson was bowled by another part-timer, Shikhar Dhawan, for a brisk 52. Dhawan had Tim Paine stumped in the same over, and two wickets in two balls from left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem followed, before Maxwell took charge.
Rohit and Dhawan, who have opened in India's previous three ODI series, set up the chase with a stand of 47. It was Coulter-Nile who broke through, having Dhawan caught behind. The middle order built partnerships all the way down till the death, the highest being 85 between Raina and Rayudu and the lowest 46 between Pujara and Rohit. While Rohit took 87 balls for his 66, Raina and Rayudu made 83 and 70 at more than a run a ball, not allowing the asking-rate to go much beyond eight an over.
After Raina fell to Maxwell with the score on 236 in the 43rd over, Rayudu seemed to have settled matters when he hit the legspinner Fawad Ahmed for successive sixes in the 46th. However, Coulter-Nile was not prepared to give in.
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo