India B 218 for 3 (Agarwal 124, Gill 42) beat India A 216 (Rayudu 48, Gowtham 35, Prasidh 4-50) by seven wickets
For all the seriousness of this being a List A fixture, there was a sense that the result was just academic. It was, after all, a contest between 22 players picked by Rahul Dravid, the India A coach, and the national selectors in two representative Indian squads for the Quarangular series.
While a place in the final was still at stake, it was more about how a group of cricketers that live and dine together for at least six months in a year, play alongside and against each other in the IPL, face each other at the nets, and know each other’s game inside-out, go about their game in a proper match scenario. For the record, India B won by seven wickets to post their second successive win.
The contest itself wasn’t particularly exciting, but it produced a number of key individual performances, which, when put in context, provided a glimpse into the players’ mindsets. One of those players was Mayank Agarwal.
Perhaps unlucky not to receive a call-up to the Test squad for the last two Tests in England, after a superb English summer with India A – he top-scored with 442 runs in six innings at an average of 88.40 in a victorious tri-series campaign – he knuckled down and flattened a quality fast-bowling attack consisting of Deepak Chahar, Mohammad Siraj and Khaleel Ahmed. He seemed to have put his non-selection aside, and his 114-ball 124 allowed India B to gallop towards their target of 218, which they reached with 53 balls to spare.
Agarwal fought through the discomfort of batting with a heavily taped left webbing, which he had damaged while attempting a catch in the slips in the 12th over of the India A innings. He spent a couple of hours off the field, but returned towards the end of India A’s innings. With bat in hand, though – he could open because it was an external injury – he looked as assured as he’s ever been, reeling off boundaries in the Powerplay and checking himself in for an extended batting session.
The highlight came as he marched into the 40s and hit successive sixes off K Gowtham – both over deep midwicket with the spin – to bring up his half-century. Then he once again buckled down and accumulated, seemingly intent on converting his start into his 12th List A hundred, and his fourth in his last seven innings in that format.
As approached the century mark, he became more adventurous. He played and missed two consecutive deliveries and got into some banter with Siraj. The crowd clearly were on local boy Agarwal’s side and egged him on, chanting “hodi maga, hodi (hit him, son, hit him>)”. Agarwal responded by stepping out and walloping two length balls over extra-cover to march into the 90s, and then brought up his century with a pulled four. When he was out pulling with India B needing 14, he had hit 14 fours and three sixes.
Shubman Gill also had a bumper India A tour of England, batting in the middle order. His seamless transition from the Under-19s to the A level along with Prithvi Shaw has many, including Dravid, excited. Fearlessness and situational awareness are traits that Gill is becoming known for, and he displayed them yet again.
In England, he was often the aggressor, coming in with platform set to tee off. Here, he walked in at No. 3 in a chase of a middling target after Ishan Kishan’s early dismissal, knowing there wasn’t any need to be overly aggressive. He cut out the lofted hits and other risky shots, and instead showed off his fleet-footedness and punchy drives as he made 42 in a 97-run stand with Agarwal. Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav completed the chase in the 42nd over.
As significant as Agarwal’s contribution was Prasidh Krishna‘s earlier in the day. The 22-year old fast bowler, whose action is eerily similar to that of Australia’s Josh Hazlewood, finished with four wickets to go with the four he picked up in Thursday’s series-opening win over South Africa A. Two of these came in his first two overs, but the one that would have given him the most satisfaction was his third, that of Shreyas Iyer in the 11th over of India A’s innings.
After setting him up with two length deliveries that angled in and held their line – Iyer edged both towards the slips – Prasidh removed the cover fielder. Iyer went for the drive off the next ball, which jagged back in off a good length, beat the inside edge, and trapped him lbw.
Ambati Rayudu reconstructed the innings with a watchful 48 and looked set for another big score until he misread a Shreyas Gopal googly, to be bowled driving against the turn. K Gowtham muscled three sixes in his 35, while Sanju Samson, out first ball on Thursday, briefly held the lower order together in making 32.