Young Gujarat batsman Manprit Juneja showed perfect temperament for the longer format of the game, scoring a patient, unbeaten 178 in India A's first innings total of 408 for 7 against New Zealand ‘A’ at stumps, on the third day of the second unofficial 'Test', in Visakhapatnam, on Wednesday.
A week short of his 23rd birthday, Juneja batted through the third day, adding 135 runs to his overnight tally of 43. He also put on a huge 197-run third wicket stand with Vasudevan Jagadeesh (91), who missed out on a ton by just nine runs.
Juneja then let his skipper Abhishek Nayar (58) dominate in a brisk 88-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
For New Zealand, pacer Doug Bracewell was the most successful bowler, picking three wickets for 78 runs.
The Indians, who trail New Zealand by just 29 runs, with three wickets remaining, will be hoping Juneja scores a double century before the bowlers get another shot at the Kiwi line-up on Thursday, the final day of the match.
Juneja made headlines a couple of seasons back when he scored a double hundred on Ranji Trophy debut. This, his fifth first-class century in just 12 matches, speaks volumes about the right-hander's talent.
He has already impressed the national selectors with a couple of half-centuries for India U-23 in the recently-concluded ACC meet in Singapore.
He faced 336 balls (equivalent to 56 overs) during his knock, which included 19 boundaries and a six.
The best part about his innings was his unflappable concentration. He was ready to leave a lot of deliveries early on and waited patiently for the loose balls. He never looked in a hurry to go for the runs yet scored at a steady clip.
India scored 314 runs, losing five wickets in the 86 overs bowled on Wednesday.
Credit should also be given to Kerala opener Jagadeesh, who played 200 deliveries for his 91, hitting nine boundaries in the process. He was finally castled by Bracewell, playing to a wrong line.
The most entertaining innings of the day was certainly played by Nayar, who scored 58 at more than run-a-ball. He faced 55 balls and smashed eight fours and a six before becoming Bracewell's third victim of the day.
New Zealand ‘A’ (1st Innings): 437 (Anton Devcich 115, Corey Anderson 100, D Bracewell 96, I Sodhi 57; D Kulkarni 3-53).
India ‘A’ (1st Innings): 408 for 7 (Manprit Juneja 178 batting, Vasudevan Jagadeesh 91, Abhishek Nayar 58, Doug Bracewell 3-75).
Image: Manprit Juneja during his unbeaten innings of 178 on Wednesday
Photograph: Andhra Cricket Association