Under the aegis of Karun Nair, India A turned the four-day match against West Indies A around with Kings XI Punjab players Ankit Rajpoot and Mayank Agarwal playing stellar roles that nearly won them the match at Beckenham on Saturday.
After electing to bat first in the first unofficial Test, India A were pushed on to the back foot as they were scuttled out for just 133 in the first innings leaving the Caribbean side in the driving seat. But Rajpoot, one of KXIP's rising stars in the VIVO Indian Premier League, ensured that the damage was limited.
Rajpoot was on a mission when West Indies A came out to bat as he trapped opener John Campbell in front in the first over. He then sent back Jermaine Blackwood after he nicked one behind leaving them huffing at 28 for 2.
West Indies A recovered after being at 82/3 with a 152-run partnership between captain Shamarh Brooks and Sunil Ambris, which was halted when Rajpoot sent the skipper back for 91. The strapping lad from Kanpur then effected a run out on Jomel Warrican and then wrapped up the innings when he claimed Raymon Reifer, who proved to be a sting in the tail, for 52. The 24-year-old made an impression by picking up 4/76 in his 25.2 overs.
Trailing by 250, India A came in to bat again determined to turn the tables. Prithvi Shaw hammered 188, and was ably supported by Mayank Agarwal who stroked an 82-ball 68 laced with 14 fours. The pair put on 181 for the opening wicket in just 165 balls before Agarwal fell to Sherman Lewis, who ended up as the best bowler for the opposition.
Next in was Ravikumar Samarth, who stroked a 137 while Shaw's dismissal at a mammoth 505-3 brought Nair to the crease. The skipper, in his first outing since the IPL, too joined in the run-fest as he scored 93 off just 154 balls helped by 11 fours.
India A eventually declared at a gargantuan 609/6, scored at nearly five and a half per over, and leaving West Indies A a daunting target of 360. Under pressure on a final day-pitch, they were reeling at 77/3 when Rajpoot sent back Campbell again but with some gritty knocks, the Windies salvaged a draw.
Rajpoot was the leading bowler for the Indians, picking up five wickets and emerged as the most economical bowler in the match as he ended the second innings with 1/21 in his 11 overs.
The two teams are set to meet again for the second unofficial Test at Taunton on Tuesday.