After the high of winning the opening Test, India A were brought down to earth again as South Africa A fought back gallantly to win the second unofficial Test and with it square the series 1-1, at Pretoria. In the end, the victory margin was quite a sizeable one, but the Indians would still believe that they let a great opportunity slip. They had command on the match for the first half of the opening day, but failed to capitalise on the opportunity, and like good teams do, South Africa A did not allow India A another chance to come back in the Test.
There were many brilliant performances in the match, but it was one massive partnership that inspired South Africa A to victory. Wayne Parnell and Simor Harmer joined forces on the opening day for their side after South Africa A had crumbled to 97 for 6. India A would have been confident of closing out the hosts’ innings early, and must even have been thinking of building a sizeable lead in their first innings. That was logical thinking under the circumstances, but what transpired was something totally contrary, and which mentally disintegrated the Indians.
Parnell and Harmer carried on and on for the next few hours, and by the time they were eventually separated, the scoreboard had moved along to 283 for 7. Both Parnell and Harmer would have been disappointed to have missed out on their respective centuries, but what they achieved was nothing short of sensational. From the depths of despair they had pulled their side into a comfortable position. Tailender Andrew Birch added insult to injury with an unbeaten 44. The unexpected amount of time India A spent in the field after getting more than half the opposition out added to their frustration.
The fact that India A were pushed on to the back foot was pretty much clear when they batted. A few of them got starts, but none of them carried on build that big innings needed. Skipper Cheteshwar Pujara got 54, Ajinkya Rahane 36 and Ambati Rayudu 29, but what India A needed was a hundred from at least one of them. That did not come, and the absence of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina was clearly felt. India A were bowled out for 201, and from there on South Africa’s march to victory only got stronger.
If Parnell and Harmer shone with the bat, Beuran Hendricks was superb with the ball in both the innings. His five-for in the first innings gave South Africa A the muchneeded lead, and he killed any hopes India A had to victory while chasing a stiff 307 by destroying the top and middle order – Hendricks’ 6 for 27 were standout figures. Even though Ajinkya Rahane and Wriddhiman Saha fought valiantly for India A, it was a lost cause after they were reduced to 18 for 5. In the end, it was the ParnellHarmer partnership that cost India the match, and a chance to clinch the series. -
-By A Cricket Analyst