From Shardul Thakur’s blazing cameo and Tom Bruce’s acrobatic effort at long-on to Tilak Varma’s measured aggression, here are the main highlights from the third and final unofficial one-dayer between India A and New Zealand A at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. India A bagged the series 3-0, with a 106-run win.
Thakur’s sizzling cameo
Thakur’s all-round abilities have earned him the nickname Beefy, a la Ian Botham, within the India dressing room. He gave a glimpse of his batting pyrotechnics when he hit 51 off 33 at a strike rate of 154.55, powering India to 284. Thakur was particularly severe on Logan van Beek, hitting him for two sixes and a four in one over. Sixty-three percent of his runs came on the on-side. Thakur was not part of the recently concluded Asia Cup, nor was he picked in the squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup. After the first unofficial one-dayer, Thakur had said that captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid were looking at him for all three formats. With the next ODI World Cup in India set to take place in just over a year, the seam bowling all-rounder is staking a claim with his performances. Duffy, Fisher and Rippon took two wickets apiece.
Moment of brilliance
Kuldeep Sen’s dismissal off the bowling of Michael Rippon will go down as ‘c Bowes b Rippon’. But to reduce it to a mere scorecard entry would be a grave injustice. Relay catches have become a familiar sight in white-ball cricket these days to the extent that there is now almost a sense of surprise when they are not taken. But New Zealand A skipper Tom Bruce’s athleticism and skill at the long-on boundary will go down as one of the best moments never to be shown live. The remarkable thing about Bruce’s effort, more than the attempted catch, was that he had the presence of mind to signal his teammate at deep midwicket, Bowes, to get in position for the lob back as he leapt to intercept the ball over the boundary. Bruce was duly swamped by his teammates after the dismissal.
Matt Fisher has the last laugh
As a bowling strategy for New Zealand, it provided the highlight of the first 10 overs that could otherwise be described as a missed opportunity. Matthew Fisher made his intentions for Abhimanyu Easwaran clear the moment the opener appeared in his sights: his first over was fairly quick but messy, with one short ball after another sprayed slightly wide of off stump. Easwaran began by cutting one away behind point for four before essaying two consecutive back-foot cover drives.
His second over was the one that clicked. Fisher stuck to an off-stump line, and the second ball was driven through covers. The fourth ball was short again, and Easwaran sent it scooting down to the boundary ropes behind square on the offside. The fifth ball, also short, had more zip than the preceding four and was bowled closer to the stumps. Easwaran tried to play the upper cut but got a nick to the keeper. His 35-ball 39 was characterised by seven hits in front and square on the offside, with just one coming off a trickle-down fine leg,
Tilak impresses, again
In May this year, at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai Indians’ Varma and Hrithik Shokeen produced a responsible stand of 48 in 47 balls to knock Chennai Super Kings out of IPL 2022 with a scrappy five-wicket win. Tilak’s technique and temperament during an unbeaten 34 impressed skipper Rohit Sharma so much that he said Tilak “would be an all-format player for India pretty soon”. Tilak and Jasprit Bumrah were the only players to feature in all 14 games for Mumbai, and Tilak was the team’s second-highest scorer with 397 runs while striking at 131 and averaging 36.09.
Here at Chepauk, left-hander Varma made a 62-ball 50 with uncomplicated flair. Off just the second ball he faced, Varma stepped out to off-spinner Joe Walker and smacked him for six over long-off. There were a couple more sixes off the left-arm spinner Rachin Ravindra’s bowling. Ravindra tossed up the first ball of his first over on a wide line, and Varma biffed him over extra cover. Next over, once again on the first ball, Rachin went full, and Varma swept him over the deep mid-wicket fence. But the New Zealand spinner had his revenge when Varma mistimed a sweep in his third over, and Logan Van Beek took a fine running catch at midwicket.
Samson racks up the runs
Sanju Samson is not part of India’s squad for the 2022 T20 World Cup. And trying to follow the selection logic that led to his absence can be a painful pursuit for some, especially after captain Rohit’s comments in February that “you need that [Samson’s] kind of shot-making ability” at the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year. But Samson continues unperturbed, still scoring runs, and managing half-centuries, as he did here, off 61 balls. With India A choosing to rest Prithvi Shaw, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Rajat Patidar for this game, captain Samson promoted himself to No. 3 and anchored the innings. He predominantly played on the on-side, with close to 54 per cent of his runs coming in that region - including his three boundaries - between midwicket and long-on. He was out lbw to Jacob Duffy, for 54.
More work to be done
Defending 284, leg-spinner Rahul Chahar challenged the New Zealand batters on a tiring pitch with dip and turn. He followed up his two for 50 from the last match with two wickets for 39 here. However, he needs to do more than just a brace of wickets per match at an economy rate of over five to catch the selectors’ attention. He has fallen rapidly down India’s pecking order since pipping Yuzvendra Chahal to the India squad for the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE. At the time, Chetan Sharma, chairman of selectors, had pointed to the greater rip and speed Chahar imparts on the ball as reasons for his inclusion. “You want a spinner who can deliver with more speed,” Sharma had said. Chahar would hope for a turnaround for fortunes from here on. Chahar’s last appearance in India colours was in the Namibia game in Dubai at the last T20 World Cup. He played a lone ODI against Sri Lanka in Colombo on July 23, 2021.
New Zealand A was bowled out for 178 in 38.3 overs. Raj Bawa took four wickets for 11 while Kuldeep Yadav picked two for 29. With this crushing defeat, New Zealand failed to bat out 50 overs on all three occasions in this series. The visiting side was bowled out for 167 in 40.2 overs in the first match and for 219 in 47 overs in the second.