India 'A' register narrow win
Cheteshwar Pujara took a giant stride towards making a comeback to the Test team, as he led India 'A' to a thrilling two-wicket victory with an unbeaten 96-run knock on the fourth and final day of the first unofficial cricket Test against the West Indies 'A' in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Tuesday.
Chasing a modest 186, India were in doldrums at 68 for five before Pujara played the captain's role to perfection and guided the visitors to a nerve-wracking win.
Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Pujara steers India home
Pujara added 73 runs for the ninth wicket with Shami Ahmed (27) to steer the Indians home after a spectacular collapse had severely jeopardised the team's chances.
The right-hander, who also struck a half-century in the first innings, was again patience personified as he held fort at one end even as wickets tumbled at regular intervals around him.
The 24-year-old faced 222 deliveries and struck 10 fours in a calculated innings that should impress the selectors when the Test squad is picked.
Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Pacer Holder troubles India with the ball
Pacer Jason Holder, playing at his home ground, registered his third five-wicket haul in his 15th first-class match -- a performance that reduced India A to 115 for 8 at one stage.
On a rain-interrupted day, a draw seemed likely when the two teams went off the field in the final hour with India 'A' needing 20 runs. But the weather cleared and Pujara ensured that it was an opportunity grabbed as he took his side to a nail-biting triumph.
When rain struck the match for the first time, at lunch break, the West Indies 'A' pacers had added three more wickets to the overnight 22 for three, giving away just 55 runs in the process.
Most of India's batting was a shambolic effort with six of their willow-wielders falling to single-digit scores.
In fact, Ahmed's 27 was the next best score on the sheet after Pujara's momentous 96.
Image: Jason Holder celebrates a wicket
Rohit fails in the second innings
Rohit Sharma, who rescued the team with a 94 in the first innings, battled hard for a 60-ball 23, but could not build on the patient effort -- dismissed by pacer Derlorn Johnson.
Rain during the lunch break caused a 45-minute delay in resumption and it only strengthened Pujara's resolve, who was on 26 before the break.
With wickets falling around him, Pujara shifted gears in the latter half of the chase and became more aggressive.
India 'A' were 115 when Holder dismissed number nine Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3), giving the hosts a good chance of sealing victory.
Image: Rohit Sharma
Pujara-Ahmed take India to victory
But Pujara and Ahmed added more than 50 before heavens opened up again, causing a 15-minute interruption.
India 'A' needed 20 at that stage, and after resumption; Pujara eased the pressure with a four before finishing it off with another boundary.
The second and third match of the series will be played at Kingstown and Gros Islet respectively.
West Indies 'A' (1st Innings): 252
India 'A' (1st Innings): 277
West Indies 'A' (2nd Innings): 210
India 'A' (2nd Innings) target: 186; overnight 22 for three
Shikhar Dhawan b D Johnson 13
Abhinav Mukund c Carter b Holder 0
Ajinkya Rahane b Holder 5
Rahul Sharma c Pagon b D Johnson 3
Cheteshwar Pujara not out 96
Rohit Sharma c wkp Thomas b Carter 23
Manoj Tiwary b Holder 5
Wriddhiman Saha c Bonner b Holder 3
Bhuvneshwar Kumar b Holder 5
Shafi Ahmed not out 27
Extras (b1, lb4, w1, nb2) 8
Total (for eight wickets in 74.3 overs) 188
Did not bat: A Dinda.
Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-12, 3-15, 4-24, 5-68, 6-77, 7-95, 8-115.
Bowling: D Johnson 21-4-62-2, Holder 27-8-55-5, Permaul 13-6-12-0, Carter 10.3-1-43-1, Bishoo 2-0-8-0, Bonner 1-0-3-0.
Result: India won by two wickets.
Series: India A lead three-match series 1-0.
Man-of-the-Match: Cheteshwar Pujara.
Image: Cheteshwar Pujara (right) and Shami Ahmed celebrate winning the match