Shardul Thakur's blazing 33-ball 51 was well complemented by Raj Angad Bawa's fine bowling show (4/11) as India A crushed New Zealand A by 106 runs in the third and final unofficial ODI to clinch the series 3-0 in Chennai on Tuesday (September 27).
Captain Sanju Samson (54 off 68 balls) and Tilak Varma (50 off 62 balls) also scored half-centuries after India opted to bat but it was Thakur's blitzkrieg down the order that took the home side to 284 all out in 49.3 overs. Thakur struck four boundaries and three sixes during his 33-ball entertaining knock.
Chasing 285 for a victory, the visitors were bowled out for 178 in 38.3 overs despite getting a good start from the openers Chad Bowes (20) and Dane Cleaver (83 off 89 balls). The 19-year-old Bawa, who shone in the ICC Under-19 World Cup earlier this year, ran through the middle and lower order of New Zealand's batting line-up with a four-wicket haul.
The young all-rounder picked up three of the last four NZ wickets to fall for fine figures of 4 for 11 to finish as the best Indian bowler.
Earlier, Abhimanyu Easwaran (39 off 35 balls), brought into the playing XI in place of Prithvi Shaw, and Rahul Tripathi got off to a brisk start. The duo added 55 runs in 8.5 overs. Easwaran hit two boundaries to signal his intent while Tripathi smacked a pull to the square-leg boundary.
Against the run of play, Easwaran nicked one to the 'keeper off Matthew Fisher. Samson, who came in at No.3, saw Tripathi (18) fall with the score at 65. The captain joined forces with the talented Tilak Varma to put together an impressive stand.
Varma, who had impressed many with his knocks for Mumbai Indians in this year's IPL, got off the mark with a six over long-off region from the second delivery he faced. The two scored briskly and added 99 runs in 106 balls, with neither hesitating to go aerial. Varma fell to the left-arm spin of Rachin Ravindra for an impressive 50.
KS Bharat, playing his first game of the three-match series, did not last long, dismissed by Fisher for 9. Samson looked good for a big score before falling LBW to medium-pacer Jacob Duffy for a 68-ball 54 (1 four, 2 sixes). Bawa fell to the same bowler for 5 and India slipped to 206 for 6.
Thakur, who batted with aplomb in the second match, came up with a blazing 33-ball 51 and his furious assault left the NZ bowlers clueless. His aggressive knock helped the host post a challenging total of 284.
The visiting team's opener Cleaver batted in an enterprising manner and powered the chase but lack of support from the other end resulted in the challenge falling flat. Save for the half-century partnership for the first wicket, the rest of the batters failed to raise to the occasion.
Legspinner Rahul Chahar (2/39) struck the first blow, removing Bowes to a catch in the deep off a sweep. Ravindra, who shone in the previous game, made just two, becoming Chahar's second victim.
Cleaver, meanwhile, kept getting the runs but the Kiwis kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Tripathi, bowling medium-pace, got a wicket too, dismissing NZ captain Tom Bruce for 10.
Michael Rippon (29) helped Cleaver add 31 runs from 24 balls before the latter fell to Rishi Dhawan (1/27). Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who picked up a hat-trick in the second match, grabbed two wickets including that of Robert O'Donnell (6).
From 175 for 6, the NZ innings folded quickly as Bawa picked up the wickets of Rippon, Duffy (1) and Fisher (0).