Young Shubman Gill was back in form with an unbeaten 66 after bowlers set the platform, dismissing South Africa A for 164 on the first day of the Unofficial Test in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday.
Gill, who has been an opener for Punjab in the longer format, played out Lungi Ngidi’s (1/18 in 6 overs) first spell as he faced 108 balls, hitting nine fours and a six as India A were in command reaching 129 for 2 at stumps.
With India looking out for an opener to replace the out-of-form KL Rahul, a big innings from Gill, will put him in contention alongside Abhimanyu Easwaran and Priyank Panchal.
The youngster had two steady partnerships – 48 for the opening wicket with Ruturaj Gaikwad (30) and 56 for the second wicket with Ricky Bhui (26).
This was after the bowling attack performed admirably demolishing the South Africans for a meagre score in 51.5 overs.
Pacer Shardul Thakur (3 for 29) and off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham (3 for 64) were the pick of the bowlers. Left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem was steady as ever (2/37).
After being drubbed 1-4 in the five-match One-Day International series, South Africa A would have hoped for a change in fortunes, but it was a tough day for them.
Sent in to bat by the host, the visiting side was jolted early when senior team opener Aiden Markram was caught behind by wicketkeeper Kona Bharat off Mohammed Siraj in the first over of the match.
After Siraj got the prized scalp of Markram, Thakur took over, dismissing the other opener Pieter Malan (0), Khayelihle Zondo (6) and the dangerous Heinrich Klaasen (0).
With South Africa A tottering at 22 for 5 and the host bowlers being on target, Markram’s side looked in danger of being bundled out for a double-digit score.
Some late resistance from young paceman Marco Jansen (45 not out, 69 balls, 4 fours, 2 sixes) and spinner Dane Piedt (33, 45 balls, 6 fours) helped them cross the 150-run mark.
Brief scores (at end of day 1): South Africa A: 164 all out in 51.5 overs (Marco Jansen 45 not out, Dane Piedt 33, Shardul Thakur 3/29, K Gowtham 3/64).
India A 129 for 2 in 38 overs (Shubman Gill 66 batting, Rituraj Gaikwad 30, Ricky Bhui 26).