Bangalore: There were several boxes that could have been ticked by India A's players, but only Yuvraj Singh, the captain, came close to taking the opportunity. Instead, it was West Indies A who made the most of the final one-dayer, taking the series 2-1 with a 45-run win. Kirk Edwards, who has been held in high esteem in the islands for some time now, cracked an authoritative century in a total of 312 for 9, something that proved insurmountable. (All the highlights from the match)
When Yuvraj won the toss and put West Indies A in, there was a real chance for the quick bowlers to make an impact under overcast skies. Prime among them was Siddarth Kaul, the bustling medium-pacer who was brought into the mix in place of Sumit Narwal. While the pitch was a batting belter, there was just enough cloud cover to suggest that the white ball might do a bit. (Read Blog: Yuvraj and the over that changed everything)
Andre Fletcher and Kieran Powell seemed well aware of this, and were decisive in leaving the ball alone when it did not threaten the stumps. Jaydev Unadkat, who would end with career-best figures of 5 for 55, was anything but threatening early on, his ability to bring the ball back into the right-handed batsmen conspicuous by its absence.
In the event, it was Shahbaz Nadeem, the impressive slow left-armer, who broke through, when Powell chopped to slip. The 74-run opening stand was broken, and in minutes Nadeem had a second, trapping Fletcher in front with an arm ball that drifted in appreciably and held its line.
With Nadeem tying one end down, Edwards was content to get his eye in and milk the bowling, attacking through the off side only when the ball was overpitched. Edwards added 66 with Jonathan Carter, but it was his 97-run association with Lyon Johnson that set up the game. Johnson was unafraid to take his chances and used the conventional and reverse sweep to good effect.
Andre Russell, who promises so much but delivers only sporadically, had a wild heave against Unadkat, only to see his stumps splayed.
Edwards, who reached his century off 98 balls, took West Indies A past the 300-mark, and fell trying to guide a full ball from Unadkat through the off side. With Edwards' wicket, Unadkat had sealed his first five-for in List A matches, but the young man will be the first to admit that the figures flattered him.
With 313 needed, India A got off to the worst possible start as Mandeep Singh was ruled out of taking the crease, having broken a finger while attempting to take a catch when India A were on the field in the first half. On the bright side, B Aparajith, who was given a chance at the top of the order in place of the misfiring Unmukt Chand, set to work.
Robin Uthappa, who was subdued to begin with and miscued more than one pull shot, seemed particularly put off when a stand above the sightscreen was thrown open to the public. While it was heartwarming to see a crowd in excess of 11,000 for the game, the manner in which fans trooped in, waving their arms to get the attention of television cameras, was unsettling. That could hardly be an excuse for a misjudged run, though, as Uthappa took on Fletcher's arm and lost.
Naman Ojha, in at No. 3, had an early waft outside the off stump and walked off to deafening cheers as the crowd welcomed the star attraction, Yuvraj. From the first ball he faced - a gentle bouncer - Yuvraj was on the attack, and middled the ball with regularity. The spinners were swept hard, and when the quick men dropped the ball short, Yuvraj was quick to pounce on the pull.
While Yuvraj sprinted out of the blocks, Aparajith proved an ideal foil, resisting the temptation to match his senior partner stroke for stroke. A feature of Aparajith's play was his temperament: he fed Yuvraj the strike, waited for the right ball to hit, and when it came did not attempt to over-hit it. Aparajith was especially pleasing when he went onto the back foot and punched through the off side, holding his shape perfectly and finding the gaps with ease.
Yuvraj reached a brisk half-century, and Aparajith brought up his own landmark soon after. The fourth-wicket partnership had reached 112 when Yuvraj (61) played down the wrong line to a straight, quick one from Ashley Nurse and was bowled.
Aparajith kept up the good work, scoring freely without slogging, but fell in the 33rd over, a ball from Veerasammy Permaul ricocheting off pad onto the stumps. Aparajith's 78 was the backbone of the India A chase, and when he fell, the chase lost momentum. It needed a brutally special knock from Yusuf Pathan, and when that did not happen, India A fell well short, ending on 267 for 8.