Bridgetown, Jun 6: Captain Cheteshwar Pujara scored an unbeaten 96 under pressure to steer India 'A' to an exciting two-wicket victory over West Indies 'A' in the first unofficial four-day Test here at the Kensington Oval on Tuesday.
Faced with a target of 186, India 'A' were in trouble at the end of third day with 22/3. Resuming from there on the final day, the visitors slumped further losing wickets. But Pujara stood tall and in the company of Shami Ahmed, guided the team home to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
The 24-year-old righ-handed batsman, Pujara, has played three Tests for India and this performance here might win him back a place in the national five-day squad. With already one slot vacant after Rahul Dravid's retirement, these matches are a great opportunity for youngsters like Pujara and others to impress national selectors.
Pujara and Ahmed took India 'A' to 188/8 in 74.3 overs. There were no major contributions from others and it was left to the skipper to anchor the chase.
Batting at number five, Pujara faced 222 balls for his unbeaten 96 with 10 boundaries. He spent five hours and 23 minutes at the crease and West Indies 'A' bowlers failed to take his wicket.
Jason Holder had threatened to spoil India 'A' chances with a five-wicket haul. But he could not remove Pujara.
The hosts had high hopes of notching victory after reducing India 'A' to 115/8, still 71 away from the target. But Pujara and Ahmed thwarted hosts' efforts.
Ahmed was the second best in the innings with 27 not out. Rohit Sharma, who made 94 in the first innings, was out for 23 runs.
Pujara was the deserving winner of the Man-of-the-match award. Pujara and number 10 batsman Ahmed were involved in a match-winning 73-run unbroken partnership for the ninth wicket.
The second unofficial Test between these sides starts in Kingstown on June 9.
Brief Scores: West Indies 'A' 252 all out in 87.3 overs (Veerasammy Permaul 66, Devon Thomas 57, Jonathan Carter 35, Nkrumah Bonner 25, Shami Ahmed 3/43, Rahul Sharma 3/73) and 210 all out in 78.3 overs (Lendl Simmons 53, Kraigg Brathwaite 50, Nkrumah Bonner 36, Devon Thomas22, Rohit Sharma 4/41, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3/44) lost to India 'A' 277 all out in 81.1 overs (Rohit Sharma 94, Cheteshwar Pujara 50, Manoj Tiwary 40, Jonathan Carter 5/63, Delorn Johnson 3/39) and 188/8 in 74.3 overs (Cheteshwar Pujara 96 not out, Shami Ahmed 27 not out, Rohit Sharma 23, Jason Holder 5/55, Delorn Johnson 2/62).