Rajkot: A stunning late assault from Cheteswar Pujara (158 not out) went in vain as India A rode on a fine century from opener Shikhar Dhawan (152) to beat India B by a narrow four runs and book a berth for the final of the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy here on Sunday.
Dhawan stroked his way to 152 from 139 balls with the help of 20 fours as India A scored a huge 335 for 4 from their allotted 50 overs after they chose to bat at Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium. Chasing the huge total of 336, India B were in a difficult position at the end of the 40th over as they needed 111 runs from the last 10 overs though they had seven wickets in hand.
But then Pujara hit a flurry of fours and sixes in the slog overs as the match went down to the wire. He scored 56 runs from 33 balls in the last 10 overs. He hit four fours in the 46th over bowled by Pravinder Awana and then smashed a six each off Harshal Patel and Abhimanyu Mithun.
India B needed 16 runs from the final over but Pujara failed to take his side to victory as only 11 runs could be scored as his side ended at 331 for 5. Pujara's unbeaten 158 came from 126 balls and he hit 16 fours and two sixes in the process.
This was India A's second consecutive win after they beat Bengal on Saturday. India B play Bengal on Monday in the last league match to decide who take on India A in the summit clash on Tuesday.
Dhawan, who was unbeaten on 99 in India A's win over Bengal on Saturday, was involved in three big partnerships. He first put up 146 runs for the opening wicket with Robin Uthappa (67) in 26.3 overs and then went on to add 61 and 94 runs with captain S Badrinath (24) and Dinesh Karthik (66 not out) for the third and fourth wickets respectively.
For India B, pacer Umesh Yadav picked up two wickets for 83 runs while Praveen Kumar and Harmeet Singh took a wicket apiece.
In their run chase, India B lost their first wicket at 41 in eighth over when Murali Vijay was dismissed by Parvinder Awana. Pujara and Srikkanth Anirudha (63) then stitched a 80-run stand for the second wicket from 15.1 overs before the latter was out in the 23rd over.
Pujara then added another 76 runs in 14.1 overs for the third wicket with Robin Bisht (38) but the asking rate kept on climbing. He had a 76-run stand with Ravindra Jadeja (27) for the fifth wicket. Awana was the pick of India A bowlers with 3/69 while Harshal Patel and Iqbal Abdulla grabbed one wicket each.
India A: 335 for 4 in 50 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 152, Robin Uthappa 67, Dinesh Karthik 66 not out; Imesh yadav 2/83).
India B: 331 for 5 in 50 overs (Cheteswar Pujara 158 not out, Srikkanth Anirudha 63; Parvinder Awana 3/69).