Having beaten India A in both the earlier clashes, and in the second one rather comprehensively, Australia A went into the final at Pretoria as favourites. India’s A bowling was the weak link, which the Aussies had exposed in both their wins, as India lost in spite of batting rather well. Thus, when India were restricted to 243, batting first, Australia were expected to get home without much trouble. India’s bowling, however, came to the party when it mattered the most, as India clinched the title comprehensively, by 50 runs.
A hint of complacency seeped into the Australian batting camp, knowing they had demolished India’s bowling in the earlier matches. This over-zealous approach of the batting side definitely aided India although it must be said that the conditions for bowlers were much more favourable in the final, and India exploited the same on the big day. Australia’s openers Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh began positively, dispatching Mohammed Shami and Suresh Raina, who surprisingly opened the bowling, for boundaries. Finch even charged out to hit Raina for a six, indicating that the move to open with Raina wasn’t the right one.
Things soon changed though as Australia went from aggressive to reckless. Finch went for a big heave against Shami and was cleaned bowled by the gap between bat and ball. Marsh, on the other hand, went for a pull shot off the same bowler, but ended up being caught by India A skipper Cheteshwar Pujara. From a good start, Australia A suddenly slid to 33 for 2 in seven overs. The need of the hour was one decent partnership that would get them back into the game. There was hope for Australia as Glenn Maxwell had been in the form of his life.
Maxwell slammed a couple of big strokes and raised Australia’s hopes, but trying to pull the underrated Raina, he perished leaving the team in deep trouble. Wickets continued to fall as Nic Maddinson edged Ishwar Pandey and Raina took a leaping catch at slip. India A’s fielding continued to prosper. When Mitchell Marsh tried to get too cheeky and went for a tough single from the non-striker’s end, he was found short of the crease courtesy a well-directed throw by Rohit Sharma at the keeper’s end. At 53 for 5, it was game over for Australia A. Shahbaz Nadeem helped himself to three wickets as Tim Paine’s 47 only reduced the margin of defeat.
Things did not look as bright for India A earlier in the day. Batting first, they lost Rohit Sharma and Pujara cheaply. There was a strong fight back in the form of an impressive 108-run stand between the in-form Shikhar Dhawan and the man who rose to the big occasion, Dinesh Karthik. Dhawan drove with élan while Karthik pulled with great effect. Australia A came right back after Dhawan was caught on the drive for 62 and Karthik was clean bowled 71. Some excellent thereafter bowling kept India down to 243. It was not a match-winning total, but India’s splendid bowling ensured the crown was theirs.
--By A Cricket Analyst