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The Preview by Abhishek Purohit
August 13, 2013
Match factsAugust 14, Pretoria
Big PictureIt looked an excellent plan on paper. Send your fringe players, and a few first-choice batsmen, to South Africa on an A tour three months before the senior side travels to the country. Ideally, far better preparation than any camp in home conditions would have been. The main course - the two unofficial Tests - are yet to arrive, but going by what has happened in the one-day tri-series, India A haven't missed home much.
The pitch at the LC de Villiers Oval in Pretoria has been so flat the South Africa A captain Justin Ontong has been left hoping for some grass on the wickets for the unofficial Tests. Given that one of them will be played on the same ground, Ontong might as well put in a prayer along with hoping.
India A have not experienced what the senior team management might have wanted them to, but they have done what they usually do on such pitches back home. The batsmen have prospered, the bowlers have suffered. In their defence, the other sides have fared similarly.
Barring the opening match, the side batting first has scored big and won, although the biggest margin has been only 39 runs. India A have made 291 and 285 and still lost, both times to Australia A. They have also shown off their batting firepower as they often do in one-dayers in benign conditions, plundering 309 in 38 overs against South Africa A. Shikhar Dhawan's astonishing 248 helped them to 433 against the same opposition.
However, it is Australia A, and not the hosts, who await India A in the final. They are the only side to chase successfully in this series. They then went ahead and defended successfully from a seemingly lost cause as India A choked.
Just like their opponents in the final, Australia A have several international players, who will be eyeing selection for the limited-overs leg of the senior side's dismal England tour. "Hopefully some of the performances coming off the back of this tour have got some guys in there," Aaron Finch, the Australia A captain, said. "Some of the guys definitely have their fingers crossed." Unlike India A, they can claim their workout in South Africa has been ideal, and timely.
In the spotlightSuresh Raina has been India A's most economical bowler. While all the batsmen are internationals, India A have come with an inexperienced bowling attack. The spinners are yet to play for the senior side, as are two of the fast bowlers. Mohammed Shami and Jaydev Unadkat are raw in international cricket. All of them have been expensive, but Ishwar Pandey came in for praise from the coach Lalchand Rajput in his only match of the series. Rajput said Pandey came back strongly after an expensive opening spell against South Africa A to bowl several yorkers at the death and pick up four wickets. India A will need plenty more of them.
Glenn Maxwell has taken a liking to the Indians this series. He savaged them for an unbeaten 145 off 79 at No. 7 to launch Australia A from 152 for 8 to 298 for 8. That earned him a promotion to No. 4, from where he hit 93 off 56. What does he have in store for India A in the final?
"There has been a run fest for the batters on this pitch and a hard time for the medium-pacers. We have a team of pretty aggressive players and we're all very experienced in one-day cricket, we're very confident of our abilities and it's been good that we haven't quite played our best cricket and yet we've won three matches so far."
Aaron Finch, the Australia A captain
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