Visakhapatnman: A counterattacking century from Luke Ronchi helped New Zealand A recover from a precarious position and post a strong first-innings total in the first unofficial Test against India A in Visakhapatnman. New Zealand had been reduced to 106 for 6 at one stage, but Ronchi struck a total of 16 fours and four sixes during his 110-ball 125, and added 146 for the seventh wicket with Todd Astle to help the team recover to 310.
After the first day’s play was called off due to rain, India began the second positively, and got opener Neil Broom run-out in the seventh over. The New Zealand batsmen tried to stabilise, but found it difficult to negotiate the offspin of Jalaj Saxena, who demolished the top order, dismissing Tom Latham, Carl Cachopa and Daryl Mitchell in quick succession to strengthen India’s position.
Ronchi started the recovery job with a 50-run fifth-wicket stand with Jimmy Neesham, but two quick wickets soon after New Zealand crossed the 100-mark pushed the visitors to the brink. Neesham was caught by Unmukt Chand off Rakesh Dhurv for 27 in the 28th over, and in the very next, Saxena caught Derek de Boorder for a duck off his own bowling.
However, Ronchi and Astle turned the game around by batting for the next 32 overs. Ronchi upped the scoring and eventually finished his innings at a strike-rate of 113.63. He was well-complemented by Astle, who played the more patient hand, hitting seven fours during his 157-ball 63.
Medium-pacer Dhawal Kulkarni finally got the breakthrough for India by trapping Ronchi lbw in the 62nd over, but Mark Gillespie, batting at No. 11, gave the innings a final push by smashing three sixes during his 11-ball 21 to take New Zealand past 300. Saxena eventually finished with six wickets, but proved to be expensive, conceding 106 runs in 22.4 overs.
The day was to get worse for India, as Unmukt Chand, who had shone with the bat in the recently concluded Emerging Teams Cup in Singapore, was caught behind by de Booder off Astle in the second over to leave India at 6 for 1, still 304 runs behind.
Speaking after play, Ronchi said his team were in a fine position going into the final day, though the pitch was flat: “It was really good to make some runs from a personal point of view, but with the position we were in it was good to have a partnership there with Toddy. I think we’re in a fantastic position with 300 on the board and them one down overnight. Now we’ve just got to focus on bowling well on a flat wicket and take our opportunities.”
India A 6 for 1 (Astle 1-4) trail New Zealand A 310 (Ronchi 125, Astle 63, Saxena 6-106) by 304 runs