India A sealed a convincing seven-wicket win over South Africa A in the final of the tri-series in Pretoria on Tuesday (August 8) on the back of a brilliant unbeaten century from Shreyas Iyer.
Chasing 268 after restricting South Africa to 267/7, India lost openers Karun Nair and Sanju Samson early, but a 141-run partnership for the third wicket between Iyer and Vijay Shankar helped India get the total to 161 in the 35th over before Vijay fell. But Manish Pandey got together with Iyer after that to take India past the target with 19 balls in hand.
Earlier, the new-ball pair of Shardul Thakur and Siddarth Kaul put the conditions on offer at the LC de Villiers Oval to good use after India won the toss. Henry Davids hit two boundaries in the first over of the match off Thakur but Kaul, especially, troubled the South African openers – Davids and Reeza Hendricks – with his probing lengths. The pressure told as Hendricks edged one to Rishabh Pant, the wicketkeeper, in the fifth over, while Davids top-edged another one from Kaul to Thakur in the seventh over.
Thakur got among the wickets soon after as Henrich Klaasen got stuck in the crease and edged to Pant for another simple catch, which the umpire signalled out after some thought.
Farhaan Behardien and Khaya Zondo, the South Africa A captain, were the new batsmen in after the flurry of wickets left them at 32 for 3, and negotiated both Basil Thampi and Vijay with relative ease. Pandey, the India A captain, turned to his spin duo of Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal to regain some control of the match but while Axar zipped through his overs and barely offered any scoring opportunities, Chahal had one of his mediocre days.
Things turned India’s way again after an 80-run stand when Zondo, who had earlier been caught on the sweep off a Chahal no-ball, went for the same stroke off Axar and sent it straight to Kaul at short fine-leg. Zondo made 39 in 61 balls.
The run-out of Wiaan Mulder brought Dewald Pretorius out in the 28th over with the total at 115 for 5, and Behardien took charge of the rebuilding with the new man, keeping things steady even as Pretorius went on the offensive. The two put on 101 runs for the sixth wicket, Pretorius clearly the aggressor with a 61-ball 58, with five fours and two sixes, which ended when Thakur returned to the attack.
Behardien reached his own half-century in 77 balls and then got to his century in the last over of the innings – he ended on 101 not out in 114 balls, with four fours and three sixes – after Thakur had picked up his third wicket in the form of Aaron Phangiso, who struck some meaty blows, as did Dane Paterson, to add to the total.
Junior Dala gave South Africa a brilliant start in the second half with the wickets of Nair and Samson, both coming off short balls, within six overs.
Iyer and Vijay struggled initially, especially against the pace of Paterson and Mulder. It settled down for India only when Zondo turned to his spinners – Phangiso and Tabraiz Shamsi. Both Iyer and Vijay started finding the boundary more often and rotated the strike comfortably from there on. That prompted several quick bowling changes from Zondo as he tried to maintain control even though at that point, after 31 overs, India were still behind the required run rate of 6.68.
Vijay and Iyer both reached their half-centuries within deliveries of each other, and Vijay attacked with more abandon after that. Three overs later, Pretorius managed to break the partnership as Vijay was caught by Davids for an 86-ball 72, but the groundwork had been done for Iyer to go all guns blazing and reach his century off 111 balls, even as Pandey lent able support with a 38-ball 32 not out.
Dala came back with ten overs to go to try and do something big, but Paterson seemed to have lost his control – five consecutive boundaries took Iyer to 140 not out in 131 balls, and India past the target.
Iyer was named the Man of the Match, while Pandey was adjudged the Man of the Series after scoring 305 runs in five matches with a top score of 93 not out.
Brief scores: South Africa A 267/7 in 50 overs (Khaya Zondo 39, Farhaan Behardien 101 n.o., Dewald Pretorius 58; Shardul Thakur 3-52, Siddarth Kaul 2-55) lost to India A 270/3 in 46.5 overs (Shreyas Iyer 140 n.o., Vijay Shankar 72, Manish Pandey 32 n.o.; Junior Dala 2-49) by 7 wickets.