India A build on lead after Ojha five-for
India A 301 and 121 for 3 (Pujara 42, Mukund 40, Sandhu 2-13) lead Australia A 268 (Handscomb 91, Stoinis 77, Ojha 5-85) by 154 runs
Temporarily ditching his fast-mediums to try his hand at offspin, Gurinder Sandhu picked up two late wickets to stall India A after a positive beginning to their second innings. Having secured a 33-run first-innings lead thanks to a five-wicket haul from Pragyan Ojha, India A's top three had extended it to 143 before Sandhu struck to remove Abhinav Mukund. He then removed Cheteshwar Pujara in his next over for the addition of seven more runs. Both wickets came through extraordinary bits of fielding.
The first was almost entirely unintentional. Rocking back to a short ball from Sandhu, Mukund slapped it hard but straight towards Cameron Bancroft at silly point. The fielder crouched to evade the ball and ended up holding it aloft after discovering it had lodged itself between his stomach and forearm. In Sandhu's next over, Pujara whipped him firmly into the leg side, only for Peter Handscomb to throw himself to his left and pluck the ball out two-handed, at full stretch. Pujara stood motionless for a couple of seconds, stunned, before trudging off to the dressing room. Karun Nair and Shreyas Iyer saw India A through to stumps, their lead 154 with seven wickets in hand.
Until Sandhu's reintroduction in unexpected guise, India A were having little difficulty in their second innings. The two teams' first-innings run rates - India A scored their runs at 2.62 an over, and Australia A at 2.69 - had indicated the difficulty of run-scoring on this slow Chepauk pitch, but with a small lead and a day and a half left, India A began cautiously - going to tea at 20 for 0 after 10 overs - and batted with urgency thereafter.
KL Rahul came down the track and launched Steve O'Keefe over long-off in the third over of the final session, before getting out to another aggressive shot, pulling Travis Head hard and flat but too close to deep square leg. The dismissal didn't dissuade the new man Pujara from playing the pull at every opportunity, as he jumped deep in his crease whenever the spinners dropped marginally short and looked for opportunities to attack them off the back foot.
Pujara's strike rate was in the 70s at one point, but Australia A took Head out of the attack and rotated the seamers from one end, with O'Keefe extracting turn and bounce from the other - he produced an edge from Pujara, on 23, that went quickly to Usman Khawaja and eluded his grasp at first slip - to bring India's scoring rate back to the mean. With the result of the match perhaps less of a priority than competitive match practice, India A will probably try and push on for quick runs before having two sessions to bowl at Australia A. Sandhu's late strikes may even have given the visitors a sniff of bowling India A out.
In the morning session, Peter Handscomb became the second batsman out in the 90s in this match, after he had extended his fifth-wicket stand with Marcus Stoinis from 110 to 154. Stoinis was the more aggressive of the two early on, drilling Pragyan Ojha to the right of mid-off in the second over of the morning and lifting him over mid-off for another boundary to bring up his fifty two overs later.
Umesh Yadav, who was bowling to a 5-4 leg-side field at the other end, gave Stoinis a bit of width to chop him away to the backward point boundary, but tightened his line thereafter and sent down successive maidens. Soon after, Amit Mishra came back into the attack to replace Ojha.
All nine wickets credited to India A's bowlers came from balls bowled from the Pattabiraman Gate End. From that end, the spinners had more of rough to bowl at, outside the left-handers' off stump, and Ojha had dismissed three of them on the second day. Mishra had looked less effective then, bowling from the Pavilion End and finding minimal purchase. The change of ends, allied to a loopier trajectory, brought him success in only his second over.
Flight enticed Handscomb out of his crease, but unlike all his previous forays down the track, this one didn't end in a pleasing flick or drive. This time Mishra achieved dip and turn to beat Handscomb's edge as he jabbed uncertainly at the ball, and Naman Ojha completed an easy stumping. Mishra struck again four overs later, dropping a legbreak on a perfect length to bring Matthew Wade halfway forward and spinning it out of the rough to produce a a bat-pad catch to short leg.
Stoinis saw Australia A through to lunch in Sean Abbott's company, but fell soon after the interval, going after Ojha but failing to clear long-off, stationed a fair distance in front of the boundary. Ojha then slipped one past a hoick from Sandhu before Mishra got the last man Andrew Fekete, who was caught at slip while trying to cut one that hurried off the pitch.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo