<
>

Siraj four-for leaves South Africa A in deep trouble

South Africa A 246 and 99 for 4 (Hamza 46*, Muthusamy 41, Siraj 4-18) trail India A 584 for 8 dec (Agarwal 220, Shaw 136*, Hendricks 3-98) by 239 runs

Mayank Agarwal was dismissed for an overnight 220, but fifties from Hanuma Vihari and Srikar Bharat armed India A with a first-innings lead of 338, before they declared on 584 for 8. The misery, however, did not end for South Africa A: fast bowler Mohammed Siraj, who had bagged 5 for 56 in the first innings, cracked open their top order again. South Africa A were 99 for 4, still 239 behind, at stumps on day three at Chinnaswamy Stadium.

"I could not do much [today] and got out the first ball. I am a little disappointed but on the whole we did well to get a 350-plus lead," Agarwal said after play. "I'm very happy with the way I've begun the season..Just because you got 2000-odd runs last season you can't take things for granted. I'm not thinking about the India selection. We have this A series against South Africa and the quadrangular A series coming up."

Either side of an hour-long rain delay, Siraj swung the new ball both ways and benefitted from the variable bounce on offer. The first ball he bowled snaked past the feeble waft of opener Sarel Erwee. The next ball snuck under the bat and shot through at shin height. Having worked the Dolphins batsman over, Siraj had him nicking off for 3 in his next over. Siraj and Navdeep Saini continued to explore the channel outside off and teased both the edges of Pieter Malan and Zubayr Hamza. While Malan also nicked off to wicketkeeper Bharat for 0 off 20 balls, Hamza needed eight balls to get off a pair.

Siraj then struck with his second ball after the rain break to pin captain Khaya Zondo lbw for a duck too. His first spell read 8-4-12-3. Siraj wasn't done yet; he returned in the fading light to have Senuran Muthusamy sparring one to a tumbling Vihari at gully for 41. At that point, South Africa A were 92 for 4 in 37 overs. Hamza, who top-scored in the second innings for the visitors with an unbeaten 46, and Rudi Second, the top-scorer in the first, saw out the remaining three overs before close.

In the morning, South Africa's attack was more penetrative than it had been at any point on Sunday. Left-arm quick Beuran Hendricks, who has played seven T20Is, trapped Agarwal in front with a nippy inswinger and then went on to remove Shreyas Iyer with extra bounce and seam movement for 24 by having him caught behind.

Vihari and his Andhra team-mate Bharat, however, built on the lead with a breezy 95 run-stand for the fifth wicket at a run rate of 4.38. Bharat took on the short balls from Hendricks and Duanne Olivier and began his innings with a triptych of pulled sixes over long leg. He hit one more six in his 77-ball 64.

Bharat was the second-highest scorer in the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2017-18 with 390 runs in eight innings at an average of 55.71, but his form in the red-ball format in the past season was less encouraging. He had managed only 292 runs in 10 innings in the Ranji Trophy at 29.20. Bharat had made 2 and 33 not out against West Indies A in a first-class match in Beckenham last month, but he did not find a place in the team against England Lions. Rishabh Pant struck twin fifties in that game and subsequently broke into the India Test squad.

Vihari also made a fifty of his own on Monday, reaching the landmark when he launched a straight six into the sightscreen off left-arm spinner Muthusamy. Axar Patel, who has gone wicketless so far, had some fun with the bat, slog-sweeping offspinner Dane Piedt over midwicket and late-cutting Muthusamy to the third-man boundary. There would be no such fun for the South African batsmen.