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Bhuvneshwar returns with match-winning three-for

India A 275 for 7 (Iyer 67, Rayudu 66, Hendricks 3-39) beat South Africa A 151 (Muthusamy 40, Behardien 38*, Bhuvneshwar 3-33) by 124 runs

The scorecard at the KSCA Cricket Ground in Alur would say India A trounced South Africa A by 124 runs but much more than the result, every eyeball in attendance was focused on Bhuvneshwar Kumar, tracing his every step on the field. And the pacer - the sole reason for interest in an inconsequential third-place match - didn't disappoint on his return from a lower-back injury.

After half-centuries from Shreyas Iyer and Ambati Rayudu helped India to a formidable 275 for 7, and Deepak Chahar drew first blood, uprooting Cloete's middle stump, Bhuvneshwar found his groove almost immediately. First ball he bowled a juicy half-volley that was smashed for four, but the next delivery was right on the money, pitching on a length and swinging back in to rap the batsman on the pads.

He struck off the last ball of his third over, having Theunis de Bruyn caught behind with one that pitched on a length and moved just enough off the seam to take the outside edge. Then, he trapped Khaya Zondo lbw on the first ball of his next over, reducing South Africa to 22 for 3. Although Senuran Muthusamy prevented the hat-trick, it didn't look like anyone on the field was aware of it in any case.

Bhuvneshwar finished his first spell of six overs with figures of 2 for 15 - bowling at full tilt, bending in the follow-through to field the ball, and, more importantly, without showing any signs of discomfort.

Pieter Malan and Muthusamy thereafter steadied the chase with a 64-run stand for the fourth wicket before Krunal Pandya dismissed the latter for 40. Soon after, Mayank Markande removed the well-set Malan and new batsman Robbie Frylinck off successive balls, leaving South Africa 90 for 6 and with little hope of a recovery. With the fate of match almost sealed, Bhuvneshwar was reintroduced into the attack in the 28th over. Bowling from the far end this time around, he dismissed Sisanda Magala lbw off his first ball and finished with figures of 3 for 33 from his nine overs, as South Africa were bundled out for 151 in 37.1 overs.

Earlier, R Samarth and Abhimanyu Easwaran gave India a slow but steady start of 35 before Magala provided South Africa with a breakthrough in the 11th over by bowling Easwaran. Three overs and six runs later, Malusi Siboto trapped Samarth in front, reducing India to 41 for 2.

However, Rayudu, in at No. 4, ensured India didn't get bogged down and provided the innings much-needed impetus. He started by hitting Siboto over mid-on to get off the mark, before driving the next ball through the covers. Two balls later, he had some luck, as Siboto forced an outside edge which went between the wicketkeeper and a wide first slip. On the first ball of his next over, Siboto once again drew an edge to the right of slip, but the ball evaded him again. Riding his luck, Rayudu stepped out on the next ball and slashed Siboto past the backward point for four more, resulting in Zondo taking his pacer out of the attack after his two overs cost 24 runs.

Rayudu kept dealing in fours, hitting two more off Magala to race away to 31 off 21 balls. Although spinners Tabraiz Shamsi and Muthusamy managed to seize some control back, wickets eluded them. Rayudu reached his fifty off 59 balls, while Iyer, who had started nervously, had by then grown in confidence. He used his feet against Muthusamy to launch him for two straight sixes, the second of which brought him his half-century, off 55 balls.

Hendricks eventually broke the 130-run stand, dismissing Rayudu for 66 with a sharp return catch. Iyer fell in the pacer's next over, caught at deep-backward point.

At that stage, it looked like South Africa may find their way back into the game, but Nitish Rana's breezy 19-ball 30 and a seven-ball 16 by Chahar pushed India past 270 and into a position of dominance.