Ishan Kishan's whirlwind 55 off 24 balls had put India A on course for a commanding win in the second unofficial ODI against South Africa A in Thiruvananthapuram. However, a mini-collapse of four quick wickets for 30 runs had South Africa A hoping for a miraculous turnaround. Krunal Pandya, though, had other ideas and he calmly batted with the tail as his unbeaten 23 gave India A a tense two-wicket win on Saturday and they extended their lead to 2-0 in the five-match series.
The match itself was in doubt to begin. Heavy overnight rain had resulted in a wet outfield and the match was reduced to 21 overs after a delay of over three and a half hours. India A inserted South Africa into bat and they struck immediately. Janneman Malan was run-out while Khaleel Ahmed got the big wicket of Reeza Hendricks, who had hit a century in the previous match.
Temba Bavuma, captaining the South Africa A side, then helped stage a revival with Khaya Zondo with a 48-run stand. However, it wa the duo of Heinrich Klassen and Geroge Linde who gave South Africa the finishing boost. The duo shared a 52-run stand but Linde carried on to decimate the India A bowlers. Linde took full toll on Deepak Chahar as he blasted 15 runs in the final over to notch up his fifty off 24 balls and help South Africa A to a tricky 162/5.
In response, India A lost Ruturaj Gaekwad chaply but Shubman Gill once again showed his prowess with some confident strokes. Anmolpreet Singh targeted Anrich Nortje with a six and a four as India A made good progress. Linde, who hurt India A with the bat, this time chipped in with the ball as he took Anmolpreet's wicket while Bjorn Fortuin got the wicket of Shubman.
However, Kishan's arrival changed the whole game. He got going with a big six off Linde and he smashed Fortuin for two fours. The 12th over bowled by Junior Dala put India A on course as Kishan blasted two fours and a six. Kishan grew in confidence by hammering a four and six off Beuran Hendricks and Marco Jansen. The left-hander notched up his fifty off just 22 balls by hamering Nortje for a six over deep midwicket.
Nortje, though, had his revenge and after Kishan fell for 55, India A's lower middle order wobbled. Dala got the wickets of Axar Patel and Deepak Chahar while Shardul Thakur was run-out. But, Krunal Pandya held his nerve by regularly piercing the gaps and he got India A closer with a six off Jansen. Fittingly, Krunal stroked the winning runs as India A won a tense match. The third match of the series will be played on September 2 and the five-match series will be followed by two unofficial Tests at Wayanad.
The day, though, belonged to Kishan and the way how he tackled some of the South Africa bowlers who have enjoyed international success. This knock should hopefully knock on the national selector's doors in the coming days as India prepare for a vital four years.