India September 8;Robin Uthappahas endured five frustrating years on the sidelines since marking his international debut with a match-winning 86 against England back in April 2006 – the highest score by an Indian debutant in ODIs. He was part of the India team that lifted the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007. But a slump in form in 2008 led to him being dropped and ever since, Uthappa has been on ODI exile.
On Sunday, he made a strong statement of intent with an all-round performance that guided India A to a comprehensive six-wicket win over New Zealand A in the first unofficial ODI in Visakhapatnam. Uthappa took four catches, and then struck a 114-ball 103 to set India A on their way to an easy victory. Uthappa put on 178 for the opening wicket in 30 overs with his captain Unmukt Chand, who cracked 94 off 88 after twin failures in the unofficial Tests.
Uthappa got off the mark in rather fortuitous circumstances with an inside edge off Adam Milne that raced behind for four. But he soon settled in, and displayed the same confidence and flair which he had shown for India between 2006 and 2008.
Uthappa made expert use of his wrists, attacking loose deliveries and sensibly rotating the strike. He reached his fifty in the 18th over by opening the face of the blade and picking the gap between point and cover for his seventh four. Uthappa showed increasing aggression as the innings wore on, executing the pull to devastating effect. He dispatched Matt Henry for two sixes and hit another one off Milne to reach his century in 110 balls.
Chand smashed nine fours and six sixes, pulling repeatedly with power, and looked to be heading towards a well-deserved century, but departed for 94 after holing out to Tom Latham at deep midwicket.
Uthappa carried on, and added another 48 with Aditya Tare, but eventually flicked one to Colin Munro at fine leg. Two more wickets fell in quick succession, but with just 23 more needed, India A remained comfortable. Kedar Jadhav hit the winning runs as India A overhauled the target with 5.5 overs remaining.
It wasn’t entirely smooth sailing for the hosts at first, after a 70-run eighth-wicket partnership between Ish Sodhi and Daryl Mitchell propelled New Zealand A to a competitive 257. The visitors, choosing to bat, got off to a solid, but unhurried start, as the openers Anton Devcich and Luke Ronchi added 36. But Uthappa got the breakthrough, diving wide to his left to take a blinder to send back Ronchi off Shrikant Wagh in the ninth over.
Devcich, Latham and Carl Cachopa all made useful contributions, but wickets at regular intervals from Dhawal Kulkarni, Ashok Menaria and Rahul Sharma, who each finished with three scalps, left New Zealand A precariously placed at 183 for 7. Mitchell counter-attacked with a 62-ball 51, but was overshadowed by Chand and Uthappa’s match-winning blitz.
India A 261 for 4 (Uthappa 103, Chand 94, Milne 3-43) beat New Zealand A 257 (Mitchell 51, Kulkarni 3-38, Menaria 3-43, Rahul Sharma 3-45) by six wickets