The fourth and final day of the India A v West Indies A match started with the West Indians declaring their second innings at their overnight score of 130 for 3, setting the Indians a target of 315 from a minimum of 90 overs at the Gangothri Glades stadium in Mysore on Saturday (September 28).
Chasing that target on a pitch that was aiding spinners was never really in question, and, in the end, the Indians sank to a 162-run loss an hour after tea, Manprit Juneja’s battling 70 well overshadowed by the West Indian spinners led by Nikita Miller, who had astounding returns of 5 for 40 from 36.4 overs.
The West Indians went on the offensive straightaway, opening the bowling with Miller, the left-arm spinner, and Miguel Cummins, and putting men in catching positions all around the bat.
The approach of KL Rahul and Jiwanjot Singh, the Indian openers, suggested that the first objective was to see out at least the first hour, or even the first session, and get into a secure position before deciding on the next step.
The plan might have worked better had both batsmen not thrown their wickets away. Rahul went first after scoring nine, guiding a short, harmless looking delivery from Miller to Leon Johnson at first slip. Then, 19 for 1 became 46 for 2 when Jiwanjot (24) was too early on a drive off Veerasammy Permaul and offered an easy catch to Kirk Edwards at short cover.
Juneja walked in and was dropped when on two by Chadwick Walton off Permaul, the wicketkeeper failing to latch on to a regulation chance. But at the other end, Miller had the measure of Cheteshwar Pujara, beating his forward prod to catch him plumb in front. Pujara was dismissed for 17, his second failure of the match, and India A had slipped to 62 for 3 at lunch.
With Pujara’s dismissal, even the slim possibility of India A going after the target had to be ruled out and it became a matter of the Indians prodding and the West Indian bowlers probing.
Appeals came thick and fast and Juneja and Miller, who had a war of words in India A’s first innings, had another not-too friendly exchange, more fielders came close to the bat with the spinners in operation and it seemed that the next wicket could fall any moment.
Rohit Motwani, who walked in at Pujara’s wicket, was clearly out of his depth. He tried to hit his way out of trouble, edged a boundary to third man, but was out lbw to the part-time offspin of Narsingh Deonarine and India A were four down for 84. Soon after, it was 90 for 5 when Harshad Khadiwale followed Motwani’s example of trying to hit out, failed to get on top of the ball, and gave an easy return catch to Deonarine for his second wicket.
Despite the mayhem, Juneja stood out, much like he in the first innings when he scored 84 glorious runs. The chatter increased with Juneja having more than one eyeball to eyeball confrontation with the opposition players; he swept Deonarine for a six to bring up the team’s hundred, then pulled his hamstring, got up and immediately waded into another scrap – this time with Powell – all along inching closer towards another half-century.
The milestone came up with a late cut off Miller, but the story didn’t change at the other end.
Rajat Paliwal was the next to go, caught at gully by Kraigg Brathwaite off Miller. Parveez Rasool came, hit two boundaries, and went back quickly enough under somewhat unfortunate circumstances when Permaul bowled him with one that rolled along the ground after pitching. Mohammad Shami scratched around for a bit before miscuing a slog to Edwards at short cover off Miller.
If the Indians managed to take the game into the last hour, it was entirely because of Juneja’s enterprise. The runs came at a trickle, but he managed to keep Ishwar Pandey from the strike for a while. Smart, because when Permaul got a chance to have a go at Pandey, he was out second ball, caught at forward short-leg by Brathwaite.
Juneja was the last man to go, trapped in front after his 195-minute vigil, and Miller had completed match figures of 9 for 101 with his five-for. Permaul had 2 for 53 for the innings and Deonarine 2 for 29, while the pacemen – Cummins and Delorn Johnson – were involved in only nine of the 85.4 overs and had little to show for their efforts.