| Dinesh Karthik |
Pretoria: India A clinched the tri-series title with a comfortable 50-run victory over Australia A in a low-scoring final, relying on a clinical display by their bowlers.
Opting to bat on a placid strip, India could manage only 243 in 49.2 overs with Shikhar Dhawan (65) and Dinesh Karthik (73) being the notable contributors. The Indian bowlers, who had been woefully out of sorts in the tournament, then managed to bowl out the Aussies for 193 in 46.3 overs to guide the team to victory at the LC de Villiers Oval. It was India’s fifth A tournament victory since the concept was introduced in 1994.
The ‘law of averages’ finally caught up with the Australians in a final that turned out to be an anti-climax of sorts with the Indians successfully avenging their twin defeats at the round robin league stage.
Speedster Shami Ahmed (2/30) dealt the initial blows to the Australians, while the likes of Shahbaz Nadeem (3/34 in 10 overs), Parvez Rasool (1/30 in 10 overs), Ishwar Pandey (1/47 in 8 overs) and Suresh Raina (1/33 in 10 overs) kept the Aussie batsmen under tight leash.
Shami started by cleaning up rival skipper Aaron Finch (20) who went for a wild slog after hitting the bowler for a big six in an earlier over. Left-hander Shaun Marsh (11), who has had a fine tournament, was Shami’s second victim as he hit a length ball straight to Indian captain Cheteshwar Pujara at mid-on.
Glenn Maxwell (12) started with a six and four but was sent back by part-time off-spinner Raina, who opened the bowling alongside Shami. Maxwell tried to slog him past mid-wicket but was holed out to Pujara as Australia were reduced to 50 for three.
It soon became 53 for five when left-hander Nick Maddinson edged one to Raina at first slip off Pandey’s bowling and Mitchell Marsh failed to beat a Rohit Sharma throw as ’keeper Wriddhiman Saha whipped off the bails in a flash.
Moises Henriques (20) lofted Dhawan for couple of sixes but was sent back by Nadeem while trying to cut one that went to Raina at slips. Nathan Coultier-Nile tried to give Nadeem the charge when Saha effected a smart stumping.
At 88 for seven, there was no looking back for the Indians but Josh Hazlewood (30) and Tim Paine (47) fought hard to add 54 runs for the eighth wicket. Hazlewood was stumped by Saha off Nadeem’s bowling and Paine was cleaned up by Rasool. India finished off the match when Fawad Ahmed was out due to a horrible mix-up with Gurinder Sandhu. Earlier, despite half-centuries from Dhawan and Karthik (73), India failed to cross 250-run-mark due to the failure of the middle-order as the last five wickets fell for only 14 runs.
India were decently placed at 229 for five at the end of 44th over before the slide began. Australian seamers Hazlewood, Coulter-Nile and Henriques, who troubled the Indian batsmen throughout the series, again did a commendable job during the death overs.
Hazlewood (3/31 from 10 overs) and Coulter-Nile (3/35 from 9.2 overs) were the pick of the bowlers with three wickets each, while all-rounder Henriques (2/47 from 10 overs) kept things tight in the middle overs.
Dhawan, who scored 248 in the last match against South Africa A, again started off well but managed only 62 off 65 balls. His innings contained nine boundaries with some flowing cover drives and a few delightful strokes on the on-side as well.
Karthik, who hasn’t got a decent hit in the tourney so far was impressive in his 75-ball-73 which had 10 boundaries. The Karthik-Dhawan duo put on a 108-run stand for the third wicket from only 18.2 overs as they helped consolidate the team’s position after they were reduced to 34 for two at one stage, losing Rohit Sharma and captain Pujara.
Just when it seemed that India would post another 300-plus total, Henriques induced an outside edge from Dhawan’s blade which was taken by glovesman Tim Paine. Karthik was then castled by Coultier-Nile as he played away from his body. Ambati Rayudu (34) and Saha (31), playing his first match in the tournament, shared a 63-run stand together for the sixth wicket.