George Worker held firm through a top and middle-order wobble to compose a match-winning hundred as New Zealand A leveled the three-match 50-over series with a 29-run victory. While Worker deserves the lion’s share of the credit for putting his side on course for series parity, a pat on the back is also in order for No. 8 batsman Cole McConchie, whose 54-ball 56 helped his side to a defendable total in the end.
After a shaky start, Krunal Pandya (51 off 48) dragged the chase to the end, supported well by key contributions from Ishan Kishan (44 off 55) and Vijay Shankar (41 off 53), but it wasn’t enough.
For the second time in the series, Mayank Agarwal decided to bowl first and reaped a couple of early rewards as Mohammad Siraj and Axar Patel dismissed Rachin Ravindra and Glenn Phillips for cheap. New Zealand A found themselves out of the early quandary through a defiant, albeit brief, partnership between Worker and Tom Bruce. Ishan Porel, however, returned for a second spell and wreaked havoc straightaway. He cleaned up Bruce first ball and had Tom Blundell trapped leg before for a first-ball duck. By the halfway stage, New Zealand lost half their side as Krunal Pandya removed left-handed Mark Chapman to leave the hosts in danger of folding for a paltry total and conceding the series, even as Worker went past a defiant fifty.
Their woes were further compounded when James Neesham retired hurt in the 31st over for a 19-ball 20, which left Worker stranded again. In stepped McConchie to turn the tide. From 146 for 5 – and a retired-hurt Neesham – New Zealand A went to 40 overs on 196 for 5, putting themselves in a position to get as close to 250 as possible. Worker upped the ante further with four boundaries in an 18-run 44th over and smashed two sixes off Siraj in the 46th which took the team past 250 runs. Porel bounced back from that poor over to end Worker’s exceptional innings – of 135 from 144 balls. Though McConchie fell in the 48th over – for a super 56 off 54 – Neesham batted out the last few overs to take New Zealand A to 295 for 7.
India A were crippled on the third ball of the chase, when the tall and strapping quick Kyle Jamieson sent Prithvi Shaw’s off-stump cartwheeling. Short partnerships – starting with Mayank and Ruturaj Gaikwad’s worth 47 runs – ensued but none threatening enough to throw New Zealand A off the game. Regular wickets meant India A struggled to keep up with the asking rate. Each of Mayank, Gaikwad and Suryakumar Yadav got off to good starts, but failed to make it count.
Vijay Shankar and Ishan Kishan shook India A out of their slumber, but New Zealand A broke that stand via a run out to leave India A behind the eight-ball once again. Vijay and Axar Patel forged two stands with Krunal Pandya – worth 40 and 56 runs respectively – but once Rachin Ravindra had Axar caught in the 45th over, India A were headed for a defeat. Krunal’s fighting effort took him past 50 runs in quick time and as far as the 48th over when Jacob Duffy sent him packing. India A dragged their feet in the last couple of overs to 266 for 9, falling well short of the target.
Brief Scores: New Zealand A 295/7 in 50 overs (George Worker 135, Cole McConchie 56; Ishan Porel 3-50, Mohammed Siraj 2-73) beat India A 266/9 in 50 overs (Krunal Pandya 51, Ishan Kishan 44; James Neesham 2-24, Jacob Duffy 2-35, Kyle Jamieson 2-69) by 29 runs