TILL recently, it was unlikely that you would hear the name Mayank Agrawal outside the IPL. The aggressive Karnataka opener’s name, however, has been headlining the sports pages quite incessantly over the last couple of months.
What with his incredible performances with the bat for India A, where he bludgeoned 409 runs at 81.80 with two rapid centuries, in a tri-series pitting Australia A and South Africa A. Then on Tuesday at the Palam Ground, Agrawal added a significant feather to his burgeoning cap with a match-winning 49-ball 87 against the big boys from South Africa to give the visitors a rude awakening.
In many ways, Kuldeep Yadav is one name that most in India have been waiting for to make headlines, as much for the uniqueness of his skill as his ability to take wickets. And the young chinaman exponent didn’t disappoint.
Even though his figures only showed a solitary wicket, that was the scalp of AB de Villiers, and Yadav was the man who put the brakes on the high-flying Proteas, restricting them to a manageable total before Agrawal smashed his team to a convincing eight-wicket win. It isn’t advisable to draw conclusions about visiting teams from warm-up games, so the judgement on the South Africans will have to wait. But India’s GenNext players showed that the selectors will have a tough time picking the team for next year’s World T20 next year.
In Kagiso Rabada and Kyle Abbott, Agrawal was already up against a bowling attack that was a much higher quality than what he’s had to contend with in his last few outings—which include his stint in the Karnataka Premier League (KPL). But it was his equally belligerent opening partner, Manan Vohra, who took charge of proceedings against the new-ball.
The heat was on, and the pitch had little on offer for Rabada and Abbott, and Vohra made them pay every time they erred. And after having watched Vohra dish out a few delightful drives and flicks, Agrawal came into his own with a cross-batted heave that sent the ball soaring over the long-on fence to bring up India A’s half-century in the sixth over. Agrawal cut, pull, drove and lorded over pace and spin, and the openers ensured that the 100 came up in 11 overs. Vohra fell for 54, but Agrawal was not done yet, and he found an able ally in Sanju Samson.
The two youngsters then kept the scoring-rate ticking along, and never lost their cool even with the hosts requiring 50 from the last five overs. And by the time Agrawal fell, holing out in the deep off Marchant de Lange’s bowling, for 87 he had brought the equation down to 20 off 17. Samson and skipper Mandeep Singh saw India A home safely with two balls to spare in the final over.
“My game plan was to get a good start with Manan and then bat till and end and win the game for my side,” he said.
Despite not being a regular in Karnataka’s Ranji Trophy side, Mayank Agarwal has always managed to impress with with his big-hitting and his wide range of shots. What was missing in his repertoire has been those big match-winning knocks. More often than not, he would get starts and then would throw his wicket away. His knock today was a testimony to his grit and his application.
It was Yadav, who led the way with the ball, dragging back the South Africans. When Mandeep turned to him, the visitors were rollicking away, having raced to 64 in 7 overs and with de Villiers at the crease. The chinaman bowler started off from around the wicket, and was hit for a six over extra-cover off just his second delivery.
Undeterred, he stuck to his plan of cramping the South African batting star, and got him top-edging an attempted sweep to Pawan Negi at short fine-leg. But not before striking de Villiers on the pads and coming close to trapping him lbw. After conceding 10 runs in his first over, Yadav turned the screws on the Protea batsmen, making the most of the slow pitch.
Not only did they struggle to find the fence, they were also struggling to rotate the strike. Between the seventh and the fifteenth over — the period in which Kuldeep operated — only 60 runs were conceded with the prized catch of AB De Villiers. The chinaman had delivered when it really mattered.
A late flourish by JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien meant the visitors would end at 189 in their allotted 20 overs.
But Agrawal had other ideas.
South Africa: 189 for 3 in 20 ovs (Jean-Paul Duminy 68 n.o., Faf du Plessis 42, A.B. de Villiers 37) lost to India A: 193 for 2 in 19.4 overs (M Agarwal 87, M Vohra 56)