Agarkar guides India to thrilling win

Published: Thursday, October 4, 2001, 15:23 [IST]
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Benoni (South Africa): Ajit Agarkar took three wickets and then slammed 49 off 43 balls as India scrambled to a three-wicket win against South Africa 'A' in a day- night match at Willowmoore Park on Wednesday.

India, without injured batsmen Saurav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, seemed headed for defeat when he came in to bat with his side six wickets down, needing 86 to win off 13 overs after South Africa 'A' had made 241 for six. Agarkar went for his shots and struck the ball cleanly, while left-hander Yuvraj Singh (46 not out) provided solid support in a seventh-wicket stand of 78 off 69 balls. It was the last match for the Indians before they meet South Africa in Johannesburg on Friday in the first match of a triangular international series which also features Kenya. Until the late, match-winning flurry it had been a disappointing performance by the tourists, but leg spinner Anil Kumble and batsman Jacob Martin also showed good form ahead of the international games. Kumble, out of action for almost a year because of a shoulder injury, conceded only 15 runs in 10 overs and took the wicket of Jacques Rudolph, the talented opening batsman. He scarcely bowled a bad ball and looked ready to resume his role as India's leading bowler. Agarkar and Martin, who both joined the tour as replacements for injured players, staked claims for places in the starting line-up for the international games. Martin made a solid 58 to be his side's top scorer. India was led by tour vice-captain Rahul Dravid because Ganguly had an injured right index finger, while Tendulkar withdrew because of a recurrence of the stress fracture injury to his right foot, which caused him to miss a recent series against Sri Lanka. Tendulkar is expected to play Friday but Ganguly is a doubtful starter. Fast bowler Mornantau Hayward withdrew from the South Africa 'A' team because of flu. He had himself replaced injured fast bowler Mfuneko Ngam. South Africa 'A' made a fast start to its innings, with Boeta Dippenaar and Rudolph putting on 62 for the first wicket in 11 overs, but Agarkar and Kumble sent them slipping to 75 for three. A century fourth wicket stand between Martin van Jaarsveld (69) and Gerald Dros (85) enabled South Africa 'A' to post a reasonable total on a slow pitch. India's ground fielding was disappointing and there were numerous fumbles, which enabled the home side to turn singles into two, while several boundaries were scored which more agile fielding could have prevented. By contrast, the South Africans were sharp and aggressive in the field, although Dippenaar dropped a simple chance at mid-wicket at a crucial stage, when Dravid was on 31 and India was 114 for two. Dippenaar made up for his lapse 19 runs later when he ran out Martin with a direct hit from the same position, ending a third wicket stand of 91 off 135 balls. Dravid was bowled for 35 in the next over, uncharacteristically swinging across the line against fast bowler Roger Telemachus. Martin, 28, who has played in eight One-day Internationals, only received his call- up for the tour after first V V S Laxman then Hemang Badani withdrew because of injuries. He survived a shaky start but then played a stylish innings to make 54 off 81 balls with seven fours. Reetinder Singh Sodhi and Deep Dasgupta both fell cheaply but Agarkar took advantage when part-time bowler Martin van Jaarsveld came on, launching an assault which cost the bowler 20 runs in two overs. With India nearing victory, swing bowler Charl Langeveldt suffered a freak injury when he was hit on the head by a savage straight drive from Yuvraj Singh, which flew on to the boundary. Langeveldt collapsed and umpire Tony O Connor signalled dead ball. Langeveldt was helped off the field and could not complete the over. Agarkar was caught at long-on with eight runs needed and 10 balls left.

AFP Copyright AFP 2001

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