Indian wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha playing a shot at India A vs Australia A practice match(BCCI/Twitter)
Indian wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha playing a shot at India A vs Australia A practice match(BCCI/Twitter)

India vs Australia Warm-up Tie: Wriddhiman Saha hits fifty, Will Pucovski takes a knock in drawn tie

Making up for his first-innings nought, Saha top-scored for the visitors with 54 after facing 100 deliveries at the Drummoyne Oval on the third and final day of the tune-up.
Sydney | By Rasesh Mandani
UPDATED ON DEC 08, 2020 09:03 PM IST

Not to read too much into practice game statistics has been the take of popular punditry. Yet, the importance of that intangible reward—psychological advantage—was not lost on the touring Indians. The architects of creating that opportunity were Wriddhiman Saha, batting to reclaim his Test place, and 20-year-old pacer Kartik Tyagi, who is primarily on the tour as a net bowling back-up.

When Tyagi came out to bat at 143/9 in their second essay, India A were staring at defeat in the three-day game in Sydney on Tuesday, facing the imminent prospect of being bowled out with the lead under 100.

With the final session to play, Saha and Tyagi batted out 13.1 overs from there, 27 of those deliveries faced by the 2020 U-19 World Cup star, showcasing resistance that would make any No.11 proud. Saha on way to his unbeaten fifty was striking cleanly at the other end. And just when one thought India will bat it out for a draw, they declared.

Australia A, led by Travis Head and including Test skipper Tim Paine, was offered a sporting chase of 130 runs in 15 overs.

The home team may have wanted to take up the challenge, but a couple of overs into India’s pace charge they would realize this wasn’t the wicket to go into T20 mode. Umesh Yadav dismissed Test opener Joe Burns a second time in the game, dragging an attempted cover drive on to the stumps.

Tyagi, after a rookie-like performance in the first innings, was sharper. Will Pucovski, in prolific domestic form and seen as a possible Test opener in this series, was struck flush on the helmet after missing a leg-side shot. A few nervous and discomforting moments passed as the 22-year-old dropped to the pitch. He took time to rise, removed his helmet and received an on-field concussion check.

Given his history with concussions, having taken multiple hits in the past, the youngster retired hurt. The two men—Burns and Pucovski, tipped to open in the first Test in Adelaide with David Warner injured, were left with issues to address.

Indians too have their share of opening woes with the two 2018 U-19 World Cup stars—Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill—twice failing the audition to earn a right to partner Mayank Agarwal at Adelaide. On Tuesday, both fell playing expansive back foot punches, caught at backward and forward of point.

Ajinkya Rahane, who will lead India in three of the four Tests, would be happy with the warm-up, as batsmen and captain. He has had batting issues to address of late and would take a lot of confidence with his hundred in the first innings.

With mainstay Cheteshwar Pujara also getting a long hit in the first innings, Umesh Yadav making a strong case for the third seamer’s slot and Saha declaring himself match-fit with bat and keeper’s gloves, the visitors may believe they have enough takeaways though the scoreboard may not consistently reflect that.

The next warm-up, a pink-ball game, will be played in Sydney from Friday.

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