Visakhapatnam: A marathon innings from Manprit Juneja, his first hundred for a representative national side, took India A closer to overtaking New Zealand A's first-innings total on a gruelling Wednesday at the Port Trust Diamond Jubilee Stadium. Juneja, 22, batted the entire third day for his unbeaten 178, forging a partnership of 197 with opener VA Jagadeesh for the third wicket and taking the score to 408 for 7, just 29 shy of the opposition's.
Juneja's 336-ball effort was his fifth hundred at first-class level while Jagadeesh fell nine runs short of three figures. From an overnight 94 for 2 in 38 overs - trailing by 343 runs - the two batsmen extended their dogged resistance until Jagadeesh was bowled by Doug Bracewell for 91 off 200 balls. The left-handed opener from Kerala had struggled as he neared a century and it was a moment of tentativeness that saw him exit just before the lunch break. He hit nine fours.
Nayar ended the first session by cracking his first ball for four, and on resumption after the interval he continued to bat aggressively, speeding to 55 off 57 balls before he was bowled by Bracewell. Corey Anderson also stuck with the new ball to send back wicketkeeper CM Gautam for 1, but Juneja remained solid at one end and this durability kept the tourists searching for the elusive wicket.
Jalaj Saxena (20) fell to Todd Astle early into the final session yet Juneja proved impregnable. The young Gujarat batsman, who in 2011 scored a double-century on first-class debut, had scored just 33 runs in the afternoon session and continued to stonewall in the evening, accumulating just 44 runs in two hours. With Shrikant Wagh (19) he put on 33 and by the close of play had added 34 in 15 overs with Dhawal Kulkarni (4* off 50 balls).