Srinidhi Ramanujam is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo
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India A 285 (Samson 54, Varma 50, Easwaran 39, Rippon 2-43) beat New Zealand A178 (Cleaver 83, Bawa 4-11, Chahar 2-39, Kuldeep 2-29) by 106 runs
Half-centuries from captain Sanju Samson, Tilak Varma and a late flourish from Shardul Thakur, combined with a four-wicket haul from allrounder Raj Bawa helped a dominant India A beat New Zealand A by 106 runs in Chennai. The hosts completed the win with 11.3 overs to spare and clinch the series 3-0. For New Zealand A, Dane Cleaver fought a lone battle by scoring an 89-ball 83 before they were all out for 178.
Opting to bat, Samson's men posted 285 on a two-paced pitch at MA Chidambaram Stadium. Samson and Varma stitched together a crucial 99-run partnership off 106 balls for the third wicket to lift the team towards the 200-mark, but Thakur's entertaining fifty meant India A finished the innings with a competitive total on board.
India A started on a brisk note, with Abhimanyu Easwaran, who was strong on his offside, notching up eight fours in his quickfire 39 before falling to pacer Matthew Fisher in the ninth over. He also shared a 55-run stand with Rahul Tripathi, who was trapped lbw by Joe Walker for a 25-ball 18. Samson and Varma, the right-left combination, then kept the scorecard ticking. Varma made 50 - he hit a four and three sixes in his 62-ball knock. Samson, who played a risk-free innings, scored half of his runs by taking singles and twos. A 68-ball 54 knock from the captain also saw a four and two clean sixes to mid-wicket.
Rishi Dhawan, at No.6, chipped in with 34 off 46, but it was Thakur who stole the limelight in the last ten overs. The allrounder's strong wrists were on display as he punched and pulled to a 33-ball 51, his third List A half-century. Thakur, whose highest score in List A is 92, hit four fours and three sixes en route to his fifty as India A moved from 206 for 5 to 284 all out in the last ten overs.
New Zealand A bowled a flurry of short balls, but the hosts played cautiously to negate it.
In the second innings, the visitors found the going tough after the initial ten overs, as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals. A reshuffle in the batting order meant Chad Bowes opened with Cleaver, who came in at No.3 in the last two one-dayers. The duo put on a brisk 52-run stand in 9.5 overs before Bowes was dismissed by legspinner Rahul Chahar for 20. A boundary-filled innings of Cleaver helped New Zealand A push along, however, with no support from the other end, they were bowled out inside 200. Cleaver's innings consisted of nine fours and two sixes.
The highlight of the second innings was a brilliant fielding effort from Easwaran, who ran in from short-cover to complete a catch with a full-length dive in front to dismiss Michael Rippon, who got 29, off Bawa and get India A closer to the win. New Zealand A went from 120 for 4 to 178 all out in the span of ten overs.
For India A, Chahar and Kuldeep Yadav also picked up two wickets apiece.
Chennai joins the Sanju Samson fan club
Given the atmosphere at Chepauk, you'd have been forgiven for mistakenly thinking it was a certain other right-hand wicketkeeper-batter taking the field against New Zealand A