Indian ‘A’ Skipper Cheteshwar Pujara fashioned a fine unbeaten 96 and featured in a fantastic unbroken 73-run ninth wicket stand with tail-ender Shami Ahmed (27*) to steer India ‘A’ to a hard fought two-wicket win against West Indies ‘A’ on a rain-hit final day of the first unofficial ‘A’ team Test match yesterday in Barbados.
The 6’7″ tall Bajan seamer Jason Holder bagged 5-55 in a losing effort for the home team which included Test leg spinner Devendra Bishoo as the Caribbean side, like their senior counterparts, failed produce the knock-out punch after having their opponents staggering on the ropes.
From a Lunch time position of 77-6 chasing 186 to win, India ‘A’ recovered to reach 166-8 before rain stopped the contest with victory for India ‘A’ 20 runs away and the hosts needing just two wickets.
But play resumed and enough time was available for Pujara who faced 222 balls, batted for 323 minutes and stroked 10 fours, to lead his team to 188-8 and a pulsating victory.
After rain delayed the restart after Lunch, Pujara continued to take the attack to the bowlers and brought up his 50 off 112 balls with five fours before the towering Holder plucked out Kumar’s off stump to collect his fifth wicket and leave the Indians in deep trouble on 115-8.
Earlier, rain forced an early Tea and at that point the weather and Pujara stood between West Indies ‘A’ and a win. West Indies needed two wickets, and India ‘A’ 66 runs. West Indies ‘A’ were led by Holder’s third five-for in his 15th first-class match. India A’s captain, Pujara, played a lone hand, and his fighting knock could yet prove to be a decisive one, especially given the presence of the angry clouds.
It was a tense final day. West Indies ‘A’ opening bowlers Delorn Johnson and Holder continued the good work from the third evening when they took three wickets in 10 overs to set up the final day beautifully. India ‘A’ had added only two to their 22 when left-arm quick Johnson broke through Shikhar Dhawan’s defence with a slower ball. Dhawan failed to add to his overnight 13.
Rohit Sharma and Pujara then fought through a testing period. Rohit was dropped on two by substitute Kyle Corbin when India were 28 for 4. Even before he had reached double figures, Rohit had played two edgy shots: a mis-hit that just cleared extra cover and another that just fell short. In the first hour only 20 runs came by. Johnson and Holder’s figures on the final morning at one point read 6-2-9-1 and 6-2-9-0.
Rohit relieved a bit of pressure with a six over long-off and a four over mid-on. However, just when he had begun to show signs of having overcome a shaky start, Rohit followed and edged a wide delivery from Jonathan Carter, who already had a five-for to his name in the first innings. In the minutes before lunch, Holder bowled Tiwary with an inswinger to make the session West Indies A’s.
During the lunch break, though, the clouds opened up, and you would wager that India ‘A’ were the happier side for it. About 45 minutes’ play was lost to rain, after which Pujara, 26 at lunch, counterattacked. He hit three fours in five deliveries to bring the target down to two figures, but playing at his home ground, Holder struck soon.
It took a sharp low catch from Nkrumah Bonner to send Wriddhiman Saha back. That was cue for Pujara to attack more, and he did so by hitting Johnson for back-to-back fours to reach his half-century.
India had reached 115 when Holder pegged back Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s off stump, and West Indies were all but there. Holder followed it up with a bouncer that hit Pujara on the right hand. Even as the physio made his way off the ground, rain made a second appearance, sending players in for an early tea break.
Rain in the final session was not enough to prevent enough time for India ‘A’ to go 1-up in the series which continues with the second Test which is slated for Jamaica from Saturday.
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