Visakhapatnam: Counter-attacking half-centuries by Ashok Menaria and Kedar Jadhav and sensible batting at the end by Mandeep Singh helped India A beat New Zealand A by two wickets, thus clean sweeping the three-match limited-overs series.
The target of 291 was looking beyond India A's reach when they lost the top four batsmen for just 79. But the crucial 128-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Jadhav (57 off 61) and Menaria (69 off 50) not only stabilised the innings but also gave it the required momentum.
After getting their eye in, both the batsmen took things in control, hitting quick runs and keeping their side well within the reach of the target. The move to give the ball to part-time legspinner Todd Astle proved extremely costly for New Zealand A as the 26- year-old went for 37 runs in his two overs, with Menaria hitting him for five sixes. Anton Devcich, the slow left-arm bowler, was also taken for 27 runs in his three overs as both Menaria and Jadhav score freely off his bowling.
Menaria made 69 off 50 while Jadhav scored 57 off 61 as India A chased down New Zealand A total with two wickets remaining, thus clean sweeping the series 3-0.
But the wicket of the duo at the same score of 207 put India A in a bit of trouble as India A were still needed 84 runs off 74 balls. But Mandeep kept his composure and ensured that India A finish on the winning side. His two successive stands of 35 runs and 47 runs with Jalaj Saxena (19 off 20) and Rahul Sharma (20 off 22) helped the hosts cross the finish line.
Earlier, good top-order batting and a late-order flourish took New Zealand to a competitive total. Luke Ronchi although had another failure, getting out for a duck, his opening partner with Devcich (66 off 85)) took the New Zealand A innings forward with a 103 runs partnership with Carl Cachopa (33 off 54). But the dismissal of Cachopa, getting caught by Kedar Jadhav off Rahul Sharma, was followed by the wicket of Devcich, who became Menaria's first victim of the innings when he gave a chance to Unmukt Chand.
With 123 for 3, New Zealand needed a good stand in the middle and allrounder Corey Anderson (59 off 45) and Tom Latham (53 off 48) added 91 runs for the fourth wicket as New Zealand looked good to a score in excess of 300. But with three wickets falling within 20 runs, it appeared that New Zealand innings would once again fall short of the promise they showed early.
But the late hitting by Todd Astle (27 off 26) and Scott Kuggeleijn (29 off 26) took the visitor's total to a challenging one.