The 28-year-old seamer emerged as the pick of the bowlers with impressive figures of 3 for 33 in nine overs and played a key role in India A's dominating 124-run victory at the KSCA Cricket Ground. He dismissed Theunis de Bruyn and captain Khaya Zondo in his first spell before returning to get rid of Sisanda Magala. The Shreyas Iyer-led side, who failed to qualify for the final following their defeat to the same South African team in the last match, leapfrogged Zondo's men to take the third spot.
After aggravating his lower-back injury during the third One-Day International against England, Bhuvneshwar was ruled out for the remainder of the English tour. He then returned to India and was sent to the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru for rehabilitation. It was earlier expected that it will take him close to four weeks to get fit, but it didn't happen.
Bhuvneshwar's back has been his Achilles heel for a while now. He had missed the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka and one-off Test against Afghanistan early this year as well owing to the same problem.
Following India A's loss in their must-win group-stage encounter against South Africa, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) added Bhuvneshwar to the squad. The move paid dividends as India's all-format paceman proved his fitness by bowling an impressive six-over opening spell - that included two wickets. With a massive season coming up, Bhuvneshwar regaining full fitness comes as excellent news for the national side.
Turning to the game itself, almost every India A batsman contributed to help their team finish on 275 for 7 in 50 overs. In response, South Africa were bowled out for just 151 in 37.1 overs.
After openers R Samarth (23) and Abhimanyu Easwaran (12) failed to convert their starts, the experienced duo of Shreyas Iyer (67) and Ambati Rayudu (66) added 130 runs for the third wicket to bring the hosts back on track.
The likes of Sanju Samson (26), Nitish Rana (19-ball 30), Krunal Pandya (24*) and Deepak Chahar (7-ball 16*) all chipped in with handy cameos to provide some late boost to the eventual total.
In reply, Pieter Malan (30), Senuran Muthusamy (40) and Farhaan Behardien (38*) were the only South African batsmen to cross the 30-run mark.
Apart from Bhuvneshwar, Chahar and Mayank Markande scalped two wickets each, while Khaleel Ahmed and Pandya picked up a wicket apiece.
First Published: August 29, 2018, 5:53 PM IST