When you know that you have thrown a match away which you should have easily won, it is extremely difficult to pick yourself up especially because at the back of your minds the regret of that hurtful loss stays with you. In India A’s case, things were tougher than normal. On Thursday, they stumbled to a seven-run defeat against Australia after having been in an impeccable position. And, the very next day, they had to face another tough challenge against another top side – South Africa A. The fact that they managed to pick themselves up and register an impressive victory speaks a lot about their self-confidence.
The victory against South Africa A at Pretoria was definitely built around the strong Indian batting display. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have had some superb partnerships at the top of the order for the senior side, and it was good to see them continue their good work in the A grade as well. There has been a pattern to the Dhawan-Sharma alliance that has been very impressive, and speaks of a certainly level of maturity among them, although in Sharma’s case question marks continue to arise.
As always, Dhawan was the aggressor this time as well, and Sharma did not make an attempt to match him stroke to stroke. The left-hander played some dazzling strokes, which we are increasingly getting used to, during his striking stay at the crease even as Sharma was content giving him the strike and himself having fun watching the strokeplay from the other end. To Sharma’s credit, whenever the opportunity arose, he also hit the big strokes as a result of which India’s run-rate was always on the right track. Though both were dismissed within a few overs of each other, their partnership gave India a wonderful platform to go on an all-out attack.
Crucially, what India did very well in the rain-reduced game was not to throw away the advantage unlike in the match against Australia A the day before. While it was disappointing that skipper Cheteshwar Pujara failed, Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayudu combined in the partnership which ensured that India’s bowlers had a big target to defend. Both had no trouble in finding the boundaries on a constant basis and eased to their respective half-centuries, in the process exposing the weaknesses in South Africa’s bowling.
India were always going to be favourites once they put up a massive score on the board. But, South Africa showed a lot of grit and skill during their chase. Reeza Hendricks and Rilee Rossouw gave them a flying start before departing. Dean Elgar and Vaughn van Jaarsveld capitalised on the same and took the Indian attack to the swords. Mohammed Shami was hit all over the park. This is not the first time that he has been taken to the cleaners, which doesn’t augur well for his international future. Parveez Rasool and Shahbaz Nadeem went for some runs, but did pull things back for India with wickets. In the end, India A won because they had ample runs in the bank to defend.
--By A Cricket Analyst