Zaheer four-for helps secure innings win
India A 564 for 9 dec (Pujara 306*, Gambhir 123) beat West Indies A 268 and 242 (Deonarine 99, Zaheer 4-59) by an innings and 54 runs
Narsingh Deonarine resisted India A with a plucky 99 but the bowlers burst through to deliver a series-levelling innings win. Abhishek Nayar, that champion in domestic cricket, provided the only two wickets in the first session, ending an 82-run stand between Deonarine and Assad Fudadin. Deonarine's vigil continued, in the company of Nikita Miller, until Zaheer Khan produced what seemed a magic delivery. With Jahmar Hamilton injured and unavailable to bat, the loss of the last four wickets for eight runs signalled the end of the match minutes after the afternoon drinks break.
West Indies A began the day with seven wickets in hand and needing 180 to make India A bat again. Deonarine and Fudadin seemed largely comfortable and even a longer-than-usual six-over first spell from Zaheer didn't bring India any success. Then, Cheteshwar Pujara did what Mumbai captains often do at such times: get Nayar to bowl. And Nayar did what he does: bowl wide outside off, play on the batsman's patience, and somehow the batsman follows one. Fudadin committed the mistake this time, edging to the keeper on 49.
Jonathan Carter, who had injured himself when filling in for the keeper Hamilton, came in to bat at No. 6, but fell to a special Nayar delivery. It was short of a length, from round the stumps, pitched middle and off, beat the outside edge as it held its line, and sent the off stump cartwheeling.
Deonarine looked assured in his effort, not going after wide deliveries, driving and cutting the loose ones, while Miller gave him good support. The two went to lunch having put up a reassuring stand. After lunch, too, they carried on. Dhawal Kulkarni seemed to have taken Deonarine's edge when he was on 94, but he had overstepped. It was the last over of his spell.
On came Zaheer, fitter, slowly raising his intensity after his first-class comeback in the previous match in Shimoga. In his second over, he pitched one on a length, seemingly angling in, enough to make Deonarine look to play to midwicket. However, he ended up losing his off stump. It had all the indications of the Zaheer legcutter, which leaves the left-hand batsmen.
With Deonarine gone, and one-and-a-half sessions to bat out, those who were fighting their natural attacking instincts let themselves go. And thus began a procession. Miller stepped out to Bhargav Bhatt and gave an easy catch to mid-off. Ashley Nurse pushed forward to Zaheer and lost his off stump. Miguel Cummins tried to swing hard at a few, and lost his off stump a ball after he had hit Zaheer for four. With so much time left in the day, it wouldn't have been wise for Hamilton to further risk his injured hand.
West Indies A won the one-day series 2-1, lost the one-off T20, took the lead in the first-class series through their spinners, but couldn't hold on to it.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo