Pretoria: India A’s batting collapsed when it mattered the most as they crashed to a 121-run defeat in the second and final four-day match against South Africa A, here, on Tuesday. The hosts, thus, levelled the two-match series 1-1.
India A had won the first four-day match by an innings and 13 runs at Rustenburg.
The visitors lost despite fighting half-centuries by Ajinkya Rahane (86) and Wriddhiman Saha (77 not out). The duo put up a gallant effort to try and take India to victory after a top order collapse.
Apart from Rahane and Saha, the rest of the batsmen even failed to reach double figures. For the hosts, left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks took six wickets and Simon Harmer chipped in with three.
Chasing a stiff 307-run target for victory, Rahane and Saha had brightened India A’s chances of registering a series win with an unbeaten 160-run stand for the sixth wicket after they were struggling on 18 for five at one stage.
At tea, Rahane was batting on 85 while Saha was unbeaten on 75, even as India A required another 130 runs for victory with five wickets remaining. A few minutes after tea, Hendricks castled Rahane to end India A’s resistance. The dismissal triggered the collapse.
Even as Saha tried hard to put up a brave fight, he kept losing partners at the other end. He remained unbeaten on 77 off 183 balls, and hit 11 boundaries. Hendricks finished with figures of 6 for 27 from 17 overs, while Simon Harmer chipped in with three for 79.
Earlier, resuming the day on three for one, India lost four wickets in quick succession for just 17 runs, as Hendricks struck three early blows.
Cheteshwar Pujara failed to add to his overnight total of 2 as Justin Ontong ran him out. That India lost their best batsman, Pujara, to a run-out off the first ball of the day meant that the visitors had all but squandered the chase.
Hendricks, who dismissed opener Murali Vijay (2) on Monday, accounted for the other three wickets — overnight batsman Shahbaz Nadeem (5), Dinesh Karthik (0) and Ambati Rayudu (1) — to leave the Indians in tatters, before Rahane and Saha tried to steady the ship.
Both Rahane and Saha played with a lot of caution and made sure that the Indians do not lose any more wickets. The duo frustrated the bowlers by playing patiently.
But just after the tea, Hendricks got the breakthrough for his team by sending back Rahane for a well-made 156-ball 86.