<
>

Pandey's 93* rescues India A in final-over finish

Manish Pandey thumps the ball through the off side Cricket Australia/Getty Images

India A captain Manish Pandey made optimum of his rich vein of form, following up his scores of 55, unbeaten 41 and 86 not-out with an undefeated 93 that steered his side to a one-wicket victory over South Africa A with two balls to spare. Set a target of 267 - courtesy Heinrich Klaasen's 108-ball 127 - Pandey's half century found little support from the India batsmen, barring opener Sanju Samson and No.9 batsman Krunal Pandya who struck 68 and 25 respectively.

Pandey and Krunal clobbered 15 runs off the 47th over, off Junior Dala, and brought the equation down to 12 off 18. Tabraiz Shamsi and Aaron Phangiso, however, nearly reversed the result as they took out one wicket each - Krunal and Siddarth Kaul - in the next two overs, conceding only 11 runs. Stranded precariously at the non-strikers's end, Pandey could only do so much as to watch No. 11 batsman Mohammed Siraj play the first three balls of the final over for dots, even as India A needed one run to win with a wicket in hand. The visitors eventually sealed the victory with Siraj scoring the winning run off the fourth ball.

That India A found themselves tottering at the cusp of defeat was largely down to Dala and Shamsi, who returned combined figures of 6 for 111. While Dala's medium pace undid the opponent's top three batsmen, Shamsi chipped away at the middle and lower-middle order with intermittent strikes. With the exception of Pandey and Samson, who smashed five fours and two sixes in his 90-ball knock, no other India A batsmen could get into the thirties. Samson added 56 each with Rishabh Pant (20) and Pandey for the third and fourth wicket respectively, before holing out to Zondo in the 28th over. Pandey, on his part, cracked five fours and two sixes and teamed up with Yuzvendra Chahal to put on 45 runs for the seventh wicket, followed by a 35-run eighth-wicket stand with Krunal.

India A's decision to bowl found validation early as Shardul Thakur removed Reeza Hendricks and Jason Smith off consecutive overs. Thakur's fellow fast-bowling companions, Siraj and Siddharth Kaul, further dented the opposition with three quick blows as the former accounted for Khaya Zondo (23) and Farhaan Behardien for a duck. Despite having sniped out half the South Africa A side under 15 overs, the India A bowlers struggled to capitalize on the superlative start as Klaasen retaliated with a brisk century. Klaasen, the South Africa A wicketkeeper was involved in three crucial partnerships, the most important of which came with Willem Mulder (66), adding 111 runs for the seventh wicket that lifted the hosts to 239 for 7 from 128 for 6. Thakur, who finished with the best figures for India A, crowned his match returns to 4 for 35 off 8.2 overs, as he picked up the last two wickets off consecutive deliveries in the 49th over, but not until Mulder's late resistance had taken South Africa A to 266.