Shubman Gill rose to the occasion with a timely hundred to steer India C to the Deodhar Trophy final with a comprehensive six-wicket win over India A on Thursday. In the presence of three selectors, U-19 star Gill hit an unbeaten 106 off 111 balls and showed why he is seen as the next big thing in Indian cricket. And probably, the day is not far when he follows his U-19 captain Prithvi Shaw into the national team. With the first three wickets down for 85 runs, Gill paced his innings perfectly and with the support of Ishan Kishan (69 off 60) and the hard-hitting Suryakumar Yadav (56 not out off 36), took India C to the final scheduled for Saturday.
The Gill special came after Kedar Jadhav's blitzkrieg in his comeback game. Jadhav plundered an unbeaten 41 off 25 balls in the death overs, pushing India A to 293 for six after the top three – Abhimanyu Easwaran (69 off 103), Anmolpreet Singh (59 off 56) and Nitish Rana (68 off 76) scored half-centuries.
The chase was a tricky one but Gill ensured India C got home comfortably, sharing an unbeaten 90-run stand. Gill got to a memorable hundred in the final over bowled by Punjab teammate Siddharth Kaul and fittingly hit the winning four. Against a decent attack comprising India's premier spinner R Ashwin, Kaul, Dhawal Kulkarni and Mohmmad Siraj, Gill was hardly troubled.
One of Gill's three sixes came off Ashwin as the teenager showed no fear in depositing the experienced off-spinner into the stands over mid-wicket.
The attractive batsman punched and drove beautifully and used the sweep shot to good effect. Yadav too was unstoppable, hammering three fours and four sixes in his entertaining knock, also making Gill's job easier.
India C had a daunting task to chase down 294 considering their opponents scored the highest total of the competition. The start provided by India C captain Ajinkya Rahane (14 off 25) and Abhinav Mukund (37 off 40) was slow and did not help the team's cause. But Gill and Yadav got together and ensured that an emphatic win for their team.
Earlier, it was a significant knock from Jadhav, who played his first competitive game since picking up a hamstring injury in Asia Cup last month, but it was not enough to make the India squad for the final three ODIs against the West Indies.
Opting to bat, India A made a solid start with openers Abhimanyu Easwaran and Anmolpreet Singh sharing a 99-run stand. Easwaran played in place of Prithvi Shaw, who was hit on the hand against India B on Tuesday.
Easwaran occupied the crease for 103 balls and scored at an ordinary strike rate of 66.99. In contrast to his innings, Anmolpreet played freely, smashing nine fours and a six before he was caught at mid-wicket for India C's first wicket.
Easwaran and Nitish Rana then stitched a 76-run stand with the former being the aggressor. The Delhi-based Rana, used to the conditions at Kotla, paced his innings nicely, collecting six fours and a maximum but missed out on a three-figure score.
Skipper Dinesh Karthik (32 off 23), who scored 99 in a losing cause against India B, did not last long this time. India A reached 201 for three in 40 overs and needed a flourish in the final 10. That was provided by Jadhav, who played his first competitive game since picking up a hamstring injury in the Asia Cup last month. Thanks to Jadhav's effort, which comprised two sixes and as many fours, India A hammered 92 runs off the last 60 balls. Jadhav was drafted into the A side in the last minute with the selectors wanting to assess his fitness.