Wriddhiman Saha impressed with a crucial half-century as Australia A and India A played out a draw on day three in the first-class warm-up match at Drummoyne Oval, Sydney, on Tuesday.
For a while, a defeat looked like a real possibility for India A. After the hosts declared at 306/9, India were in a real spot of bother at the start of the final session with the scoreboard reading 143/9 at one stage. But Saha’s gritty half-century ensured the visitors managed to draw the first practice match ahead of the highly anticipated four-match Test series starting in Adelaide on December 17.
Once a defeat seemed improbable, captain Ajnikya Rahane declared to set the Aussies a target of 131 in 15 overs. Any hopes the hosts had of chasing it down were doused quickly in the first over when Umesh Yadav picked up the wicket of Joe Burns once again, while Will Pucovski received a life not long after with Prithvi Shaw dropping a catch at second slip.
The game petered out to a stalemate from there on but not before a scary incident involving 22-year-old Pucovski who had to walk off retired hurt after a nasty blow to the helmet. The youngster got into an awkward position trying to fend off a Kartik Tyagi bouncer and was struck hard on his helmet. He is in line to make his debut in the absence of David Warner. But, given his history with concussion, it remains to be seen how he recovers after looking groggy when he walked off the field.
For India A, after being dismissed for zero in the first innings, openers Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw came up with disappointing displays once again in their second outings. With a golden chance to get some batting time in the middle for a couple of sessions, Shaw (19 off 31) and Gill (29 off 24) were both dismissed by Green when playing shots away from their body.
With a spot in the Test XI potentially at stake, the two youngsters showed a disappointing lack of application with Gill especially reckless in going for a big shot with 20 minutes to go for lunch.
Cheteshwar Pujara followed up his half-century in the first innings with a zero in the second as he received an absolute peach from Michael Neser and was bowled.
Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari played patient knocks after lunch in the first hour of the second session when the draw seemed imminent but a flurry of wickets from there on gave the Aussies a sniff. It was then up to Saha to rally around the lower order to score an impressive 100-ball 54 and make up for his zero in the first innings.
Resuming at 286/8 at the start of day three, Australians went on to add 22 more runs with young all-rounder Cameron Green hitting a few more impressive shots to take his score to 125*. When Mark Steketee was dismissed by Mohammed Siraj, the Australians declared as Jackson Bird’s injury on day two ruled him out of the rest of the game.
For Australia A, after Green’s early two-wicket burst, Steketee (5/37) was the star with the ball as he picked up five wickets. The hero of the match was, without a doubt, 21-year-old allrounder Green who enjoyed a fine all-round outing having scored a hundred in the first innings and picking up two wickets on day three.
The second practice match will be a pink-ball day-night affair in Sydney, starting on Friday. The Test series starts with the day-night game in Adelaide from December 17-21.
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