Australia A 248 for 5 (Khawaja 101*, Wildermuth 62*) beat India B 276 for 6 (Pandey 117*, Agarwal 36, Neser 3-47) by five wickets (D/L method)
When Jack Wildermuth earned his first Australia cap during the T20I tri-series in Zimbabwe in June, he did so not just because of his seam bowling but also his promise as a lower-order hitter. On Monday, he added a chapter to his batting legend. With Australia A needing five off the final ball to seal a place in the Quadrangular series final, he muscled a six over long-on to clinch a thrilling win over India B in Alur. The result set up an enticing final between the same two teams on Wednesday at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Wildermuth's unbeaten 62, which came off just 42 balls, was his first half-century in List A cricket. All his runs came in an unbroken partnership of 93 with Usman Khawaja, who made an unbeaten 101. When the two came together, Australia A were in trouble at 155 for 5 in a revised chase of 247 in 40 overs. The initial 50-over target was 277; rain arrived when Australia A were 132 for 4 in 24.1 overs.
Wildermuth's hitting was special, but he was aided by some generous India B fielding. With Australia A needing 28 off 12 balls, Wildermuth drilled a full delivery from Siddarth Kaul to extra-cover, where Kedar Jadhav, slow to move, put down the catch. A little while earlier, with Australia A needing 79 and Wildermuth on 4, Ishan Kishan missed a regulation stumping, grabbing at the ball before it got to him, much to Shreyas Gopal's frustration after he thought he had foxed the batsman with his googly.
Outside of these two lapses, Wildermuth batted like a man possessed. In the final over bowled by Prasidh Krishna, off which Australia A needed 19, he used the depth of the crease superbly. First, he walked across his stumps to belt the ball one-bounce to the long-on boundary. Then, with nine needed off two balls, he went deep into his crease again to carve a full delivery to the extra-cover fence.
Then he used a bit of tactical acumen against the frazzled Prasidh, who had seen Wildermuth's movement back into his crease. Off the final delivery, Prasidh anticipated the same sort of footwork, and shortened his length just a touch. This time, though, Wildermuth advanced towards the ball and swung it over wide long-on to clinch victory.
At the other end, Khawaja had struggled for timing towards the end of his innings. Wildermuth had been the dominant partner through the first half of their partnership, belting 32 of the first 50 runs they put on. Then - Wildermuth later revealed - they decided that Khawaja would go after the bowling while his partner aimed to bat deep into the chase. As it turned out, Khawaja struggled to clear the ropes, and had to instead rely on paddles and scoops that he couldn't quite pull off, increasing the pressure on Wildermuth. Fortunately for Australia A, this didn't cost them the game.
Before all that, Khawaja, the beneficiary of multiple slices of luck, made full use of his chances to pick runs off the fast bowlers and do the early running in a 77-run opening stand with vice-captain Alex Carey. He was dropped on 5 when Jalaj Saxena misjudged a catch at square leg off Prasidh in the fourth over. With the early jitter out of the way, Khawaja expertly handled Kaul's threat, lacing him for three cover drives to force Manish Pandey, the India B captain, to change the bowling. Kulwant Khejroliya, the third seamer, was brought in to add left-arm variety, and Khawaja welcomed him with a disdainful flick over midwicket in the 10th over.
Australia A had moved to 70 without loss in 12 when Pandey introduced spin. By the end of the 19th over, they had slipped to 95 for 3, with the offspinner Jalaj Saxena doing the bulk of the damage. He picked up the first two wickets, Carey bowled by sharp turn when he looked to flick against the turn and Travis Head caught behind, top-edging an attempted paddle-sweep. Khejroliya got one to reverse late from around the wicket to sneak past Handscomb's under-edge and flatten middle and leg stumps.
Then the rain arrived to turn the game to shave 10 overs off the chase. Instead of 145 in 155 balls, Australia A now needed 115 in 95, and Khawaja needed to get a move on. For a while, India B's spinners kept him quiet, and the required rate climbed.
With 72 needed off 42, Wildermuth charged Saxena and swung him for two big sixes over deep midwicket. Off the next over, with Australia A needing 66 off 36, he was put down at deep square leg off a mistimed slog. Shortly after, when he scooped one to short fine leg on 97, Shubman Gill dropped him. Khawaja smashed the next ball to the cover boundary, leaving Australia A needing 28 off two overs. This dropped chance and Jadhav's, in the space of three balls, proved crucial.
All this meant Pandey's brilliant 117, his seventh List A century, went in vain. The innings took his tournament tally to 233 runs in three innings without being dismissed. With India's next limited-overs assignment - the Asia Cup - slated for September, Pandey couldn't have timed his return to form, after a poor IPL, any better. He was still a picture of disappointment after the game, though, having "miscalculated one or two bowling changes."
The next-best score in India B's innings was 36 from Mayank Agarwal, who hit three fours and a six before becoming the first of Michael Neser's two victims. Deepak Hooda provided vital blows lower down the order along with Pandey to shore up the total when it looked like India B might end up somewhere near the 250 mark. But even the late surge towards the end didn't prove quit enough.