Quadrangular series 2018: Batting trio runs over Australia A in final
Two days after enduring a stunning last-ball loss to Australia A, the India B side reversed the result against the same team with a thumping nine-wicket win in the Quadrangular series final in Bengaluru.
On a gloomy day that threatened a late start due to early rains, the Indian bowling attack came together to chain down the Aussies on a sticky wicket that appeared sluggish due to overnight rains.
Despite D'Arcy Short's 72 at the top of the order, the A team teetered from 106-2 to 225 all out, Shreyas Gopal being the pick of the bowlers with three wickets.
Fine half-centuries, first from Mayank Agarwal and then from the unbeaten duo of Manish Pandey and Shubman Gill, ensured that the side won at a canter, despite losing Ishan Kishan early in the innings due to an injury to his finger.
Earlier, the visitors started steadily with Short and Usman Khawaja, the centurion in the previous game, putting up a 50-run stand for the first wicket, but the introduction of spin, in the form of Jalaj Saxena, paid dividends almost immediately.
A wild sweep off his bat nestled into the hands of a chasing Ishan Kishan behind the stumps, and was quickly followed by Travis Head's dismissal to Navdeep Saini off a ball that extracted extra ping from the surface.
First Marnus Labuschagne, and then Alex Carey, settled into the middle to assist Short and build a partnership, but a four-pronged spin attack tied them down. Jalaj Saxena kept pressing from one end with his loopy off-spin, while Shreyas Gopal's line nagged them, resulting in Labuschagne's dismissal after a 50-run stand.
Short looked confident in the middle and used his feet against the spinners, quite contrary to the cocooned version that was seen for the Rajasthan Royals in this IPL.
Hooda, however, struck in only his second over, getting assistance from the dull pitch. Short was the first one to go, gifting a catch to Manish Pandey at short cover and Ashton Agar, promoted to No.6, was dismissed in similar fashion, the sluggish pitch forcing both to check their strokes at the last moment.
Alex Carey, however, took it upon himself to hold one end. Content with working the ball around, the wicket-keeper batsman actively swept the spinners away, and reached his 50 off 52 balls. After 40 overs though, Australia still hadn't reached 200.
The 42nd over was the turning point, as Carey and the previous match's hero Jack Wildermuth got out to back-to-back deliveries off Gopal, who dazed the batsmen with his clever change of pace and variations. The leggie continued bowling until the 46th over, ensuring that Travis Head's team got no leeway to accelerate towards the death.
Michael Neser was on the lookout for some quick runs, but a disciplined second spell from Sidharth Kaul ensured that the total didn't drag beyond 225. Prasidh Krishna, who went for 23 runs in his first two overs against the openers, did not return to the attack.
India started off the chase with a delectable punch from Mayank Agarwal through the covers, a teeny teaser to what lay in store. Displaying a watertight technique, he did not shy away from hitting over the infield, a lofted drive over covers off Billy Stanlake making for a perfect picture.
The Mayank Agarwal - Ashton Agar battle was intriguing to watch; at times, the batsman looked authoritative, jumping down the track and heaving Agar over his head. The spinner, during his moments, managed to eke out edges and false strokes off a near-flawless knock.
In the end, Agar claimed the bragging rights, deceiving the batsman with an arm-ball that darted onto his stumps.
Shubman Gill, however, motored along from the other end, presenting the full face of his bat to the pacers and driving the ball down the ground with ease. Manish Pandey, who remained unbeaten throughout the tournament, did not let his guard slip, as the two benefited from the eased up pitch to take the team home without breaking a sweat.
The 100-run partnership came from Gill's bat, through a stupendous straight-bat hit off Michael Neser. Barring a few close ones from Agar, none of the spinners could prise out anything from the surface, as the target was achieved with more than 13 overs to spare.