Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
South Africa A 246 for 8 (Second 94, Erwee 47, Siraj 3-56) v India A
While India were locked in a riveting contest with England at Edgbaston, fast bowlers Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini made inroads for the A team against South Africa A in a less-intense setting at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. The two quicks swung the new ball and later Rajneesh Gurbani seemingly reversed the old one, but the South African batsmen kept stabbing at wide deliveries and continued nicking behind. Seven of the eight batsmen who were dismissed on day one were either caught by wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat or pouched in the slips.
However, Knights' wicketkeeper-batsman Rudi Second, who has been a prolific scorer in the Sunfoil domestic competition, repaired the innings with a sprightly 94 off 139 balls and hauled his team from 93 for 4 to 246 for 8 at stumps.
Unlike his team-mates, Second largely played close to his body and when he shaped to drive, he ensured his front foot met the pitch of the ball. He was compact against spin too, often stretching forward to smother whatever little turn Yuzvendra Chahal extracted from the day-one pitch. Fifteen minutes before the close of play, though, Second himself threw his bat at a Siraj offering that finished possibly wider than a set of stumps outside off and handed Bharat his fourth catch.
Siraj's wickets, however, weren't as eye-catching as the inswinger that stormed through the defences of Alastair Cook in Worcester. "Getting a world-class batsman like Cook gave me the confidence that I would dismiss any batsman," Siraj said after play. "My plan there was to just keep bowling dot balls and make the batsman commit a mistake. Even today there was movement with the new ball and I just wanted to bowl in the right areas."
As for Chahal, who was playing his first red-ball match since the Ranji quarter-final against Jharkhand in 2016, he showed signs of rust in the first two sessions before settling down after tea. In his second over, he bowled a knee-high full-toss to Sarel Erwee and watched the ball disappear into the midwicket boundary, where his coach Rahul Dravid was overseeing the action. He then bowled two front-foot no-balls, the second of which was cracked to the extra-cover boundary by Second. Chahal, ultimately, got the breakthrough in the 72nd over when a sharp legbreak duped Shaun von Berg. Axar Patel, the second spinner, who was picked ahead of Jayant Yadav, barely found turn and toiled for figures of 17-3-35-0. He was the only Indian bowler who did not take a wicket.
Siraj, however, was the standout bowler for India A. He had been the pick of the bowlers in the four-dayers in England as well, bagging 15 wickets against West Indies A and England Lions, and moved up the pecking order further with his 3 for 56 on Saturday. He made his first incision when he moved the ball off the seam and drew the outside edge of opener Pieter Malan in the fifth over. In his next over, he removed Zubayr Hamza in similar fashion for a duck. Siraj later returned with the second new ball to nip out Second.
Saini had also generated seam movement and was rewarded with the wickets of captain Khaya Zondo and allrounder Senuran Muthusamy. Both were jittery throughout, flashing the ball over the cordon or the infield before their edges were also snaffled. Muthusamy faced 17 dots before getting off the mark with a top-edged boundary that sailed over long leg. He then hung on for a 59-run stand - the highest of the innings - with Second.
Second rallied the middle and lower order after Erwee had scored 47 around the top-order wobble. Second was particularly strong through the off side, driving Gurbani off either foot through extra cover. He also laced Axar in front of square and dared to foray down the track against Chahal, proceeding to his 29th first-class fifty off 71 balls. Moments later, he was reprieved on 60 when Hanuma Vihari shelled a low catch. Second added 34 runs to his tally before being the last man to be dismissed on day one.
Meanwhile, Gurbani, who played only the four-dayer against West Indies A in Taunton, gave a good account of himself by venturing wide of the crease and nipping the ball against the angle from over the wicket. He claimed the only non-caught behind wicket when he pinned Dane Piedt in front for 5 in the 79th over.