Holder's five-for can't stop Pujara
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – A superb unbeaten 96 by India A captain Cheteshwar Pujara condemned West Indies A to a heart-breaking two-wicket defeat on a tense final day of the opening four-day Test match at Kensington Oval on Tuesday.
The highly-touted 24-year-old batted all day and held his nerve, while holding the innings together, as the visitors reached the victory target of 188 for eight to win the match in fading light and beat showers, which had forced three stoppages earlier in the day.
Pujara’s Man-of-the-Match innings bettered a Herculean spell of top-quality seam bowling from fast bowler Jason Holder. The six-foot-seven-inch 20-year-old from Barbados ended with five for 55 from 27 accurate overs, as he took his fifth five-wicket haul in his 15th first-class match.
He got excellent support from left-arm pacer Delorn Johnson, the six-foot0five0inch Vincentian who bowled with fire and gave a lion-heated effort to take two for 62 from 21 overs.
Pujara, who made a disciplined 50 in the first innings, engineered a match-winning unbeaten ninth-wicket stand of 73 with tail-ender Shami Ahmed, who batted for over two hours for 27 not out.
The pair joined forces with India almost dead and buried at 115 for eight. Ahmed played the shot of the day, as he launched Holder over long-on for a massive six and that signaled a shift in the momentum.
Pujara was watchful all day and never looked fazed as wickets tumbled all around him in the first half of the day. He started the day without a run, having survived a torrid 23 minutes on the third evening but played himself in and gradually grew in confidence. Overall he batted 323 minutes, faced 222 balls and hit 10 boundaries – the last a tickle to fine leg off seamer Jonathan Carter, which brought up the winning runs.
Earlier, India’s much vaunted batting was wrecked by some impressive bowling. Johnson produced a superb slower ball to clip the off stump of Shihkar Dhawan in the day’s third over and medium pacer Jonathan Carter forced Rohit Sharma (23) into a loose drive at a wide ball which keeper Devon Thomas gleefully snapped up to leave India reeling at 68 for five.
Holder came back and produced a superb in-swinger which knocked back Manoj Tiwary’s off stump as he offered no stroke. Holder then induced an edge from Wriddhiman Saha, which was well held by Nkrumah Bonner at slip as India middle order was ripped out at 95 for seven. They were then further reduced to 118 for eight as Holder and forced Bhuvneshwar Kumar into a loose backfoot drive and he lost his off stump.
At that stage West Indies were well on top but Pujara found a worthy ally in Ahmed to frustrate the hosts.
The second four-day ‘Test’ start at the Arnos Vale Ground in St Vincent on Saturday.
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)
S Dhawan b D Johnson 13
A Mukund c Carter b Holder 0
A Rahane b Holder 5
Rahul Sharma c Pagon b D Johnson 3
*C Pujara not out 96
Rohit Sharma c wkp Thomas b Carter 23
M Tiwary b Holder 5
+W Saha c Bonner b Holder 3
B Kumar b Holder 5
S Ahmed not out 27
Extras (b1, lb4, w1, nb2) 8
TOTAL (8 wkts, 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.
Toss: India A.
Umpires: Gregory Brathwaite, Joel Wilson.