THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: After the frustration caused by rain and the defiance of Wiaan Mulder and Heinrich Klaasen, India A were on the cusp of victory in the first unofficial Test at Greenfield International Stadium. Jalaj Saxena showed why he is a utility cricketer, leaving South Africa A at 179/9 with a paltry lead of 40 on Day 3.
After a heavy downpour, play started mid-way through the final session on Wednesday as South Africa A resumed from 125/5. Their hopes rested on Klaasen and Mulder, their last established batsmen.
Mulder played the aggressor, striking Krishnappa Gowtham for a six and a four in only the second over of the day. Klaasen, meanwhile, slowly constructed his innings. The duo had put on 74 when Saxena’s off-spin rattled the visitors.
Klaasen looked uncomfortable against spin, and Saxena initiated a mistake that provided the breakthrough. Klaasen survived an lbw appeal off the second ball of Saxena’s first over, but Mulder got into a mix-up and Ricky Bhui’s direct hit sent him back. In his second over, Saxena dismissed Dane Piedt. He then bagged the big wicket of Klaasen to put the visiting team on the brink of defeat.
“I had this belief that even if the batsmen are set, I can still get them out. Those two were playing very freely,” Saxena said after the day’s play. After his unbeaten 61, his 2/22 proved equally crucial.
“I wanted to bowl. If the team is winning and you are contributing, then it doesn’t matter whether you are doing well with the bat or with the ball. It’s the winning feeling that is satisfying. Hopefully, tomorrow it won’t rain and we’ll get to play.”
Batting in the fourth innings is always a tricky affair and Saxena’s telling contributions made India’s task a whole lot easier. Injuries to Vijay Shankar and Anmolpreet Singh opened the doors for Saxena, and he’s making it count. Saxena had also starred with the bat for India A on the second day of the clash. The right-hander had notched up an unbeaten 61.
Brief scores: SA A 164 & 179/9 in 55 ovs (Klaasen 48, Mulder 46; Nadeem 3/17, Saxena 2/22) vs India A 303.