India clinch last-ball thriller
India A rode on an all-round performance from S Badrinath to clinch a thrilling one-run win over South Africa A in the series-deciding ODI in Rajkot. Praveen Kumar, the UP allrounder, bowled the last over, with South Africa needing 12 off it. He gave only two runs off the first three balls. But Johan Botha, who brought South Africa back into the chase, scooped the fourth ball over short fine leg and hoicked the fifth one to the midwicket boundary.
Needing two to win off the last ball, Kumar produced a yorker, which Botha could only manage to play just to the left of the bowler. Kumar got a hand to it, which deflected it towards captain Mohammad Kaif who was already charging towards the stumps. Kaif collected it cleanly and ran the stumps down on the dive to seal the win.
The South African chase of 291 was built around breezy half-centuries from Alviro Petersen and Albie Morkel, and a more sedate one from Gulam Bodi. But Badrinath kept chipping away at them, taking four wickets at regular intervals to leave them requiring 50 off the last seven overs with only two wickets in hand. Botha's cameo ensured that they were still in the hunt when the last over began, even with one wicket in hand.
Earlier, half-centuries from Badrinath and Kaif had helped India overcome a stuttering start to post 290.
A bright day, complemented by a holiday crowd, greeted the teams for the match, in sharp contrast to the first two games, which were washed out. Kaif chose to bat on what looked like a good batting wicket, but Rory Kleinveldt gave South Africa the early advantage by dismissing the openers in successive balls. Parthiv Patel also fell cheaply - attempting an upper cut off Charl Langeveldt.
Suresh Raina, making his first appearance after having been overlooked for the two Tests, quickly got into the groove with a couple of boundaries off Langeveldt. Raina motored along to 45 off 40 balls, including a pulled six over midwicket, but perished when a pull ended up in the hands of Langeveldt at long-on.
When Manoj Tiwary fended a Morkel bouncer to the wicketkeeper (replays suggested that he was hit on his helmet), the Indians were at a precarious 105 for 5. Kaif and Badrinath then put together a fighting 144-run stand at nearly a run a ball.
Kaif fell two short of a well-deserved century when he holed out to long-on. Badrinath then brought out a wide array of shots, making room to improvise, and in partnership with Amit Mishra [22 of 11 balls], took India to a formidable total.