Principal Correspondent

Ahmedabad: Distant crackers that celebrated India’s World Twenty20 Cup triumph and the steady pitter-patter of rain were the two constant sounds, at the Sardar Patel Cricket Stadium at Motera here on Tuesday.

An overcast sky was the wrong prelude to the three match limited-overs’ series that will commence between India ‘A’ and South Africa ‘A’ here on Wednesday before shifting to Baroda (Sept. 28) and Rajkot (Sept. 30).

India ‘A’ skipper Mohammad Kaif understandably spoke more about the weather when the media caught up with him late on Tuesday evening. “The conditions look bad and I hope it doesn’t rain again,” Kaif said.

Kaif has been peering hard at the skies for a while now ever since the rains washed out three days of the second four-day ‘Test’ at Dharamshala recently.

Advantage India ‘A’

However, it does help that India ‘A’ won the two Test series 1-0, riding on its innings and 242-run win over the visitors in the first Test at Delhi.

“Winning the match in Delhi was special but I respect the South Africans and with five replacements for the one-day squad, it will be a challenge to play them,” Kaif said.

With Australia and Pakistan touring India, the ‘A’ team has a clutch of players who are hoping to write their redemption song this season. Kaif along with Suresh Raina and Parthiv Patel is part of a brigade that is itching to get back while the list of hopefuls also includes S. Badrinath, who cracked a double century at Delhi, seamer Ishant Sharma and batsman Manoj Tiwary. The Ishant-Tiwary duo have been part of recent Indian sides and along with the Border-Gavaskar Scholarship winners batsman Cheteshwar Pujara and seamer Yomahesh are part of a quartet that is rich in promise.

The India ‘A’ side did some limbering exercises, a touch of rugby and some catching in the adjoining ‘B’ Ground though a full nets’ session was discarded owing to the rains.

Wet outfield

Meanwhile, the South Africans led by Boeta Dippenaar made a belated entry. The visitors had a look at the wet outfield and trooped back to their hotel rooms, being content with their lone training session here on Monday afternoon. Dippenaar leads a team that has the familiar names of seamer Charl Langeveldt, allrounder Albie Morkel, wicket-keeper Thami Tsolekile and off-spinner Johan Botha.

For Dippenaar, Alviro Petersen’s 109 at Dharamshala has been the lone moment of cheer in an increasingly frustrating tour so far and now with rain forecast, the visitors are desperately seeking some sunshine.

The teams:

India ‘A’: Mohammad Kaif (capt.), Parthiv Patel (vice-capt.), C. Pujara, Karan Goel, Manoj Tiwary, S. Raina, S. Badrinath, Praveen Kumar, P. Ojha, Ishant Sharma, Yomahesh, Pankaj Singh, Arjun Yadav, Abhishek Nayar and Anirudha Srikkanth. Coach: Paras Mhambrey.

South Africa ‘A’: B. Dippenaar (captain), Morne Van Wyk, Yusuf Abdullah, Hashim Amla, R. Kleinveldt, Johan Botha, T. Tsolekile, R. Peterson, A. Petersen, C. Werner, Friedel De Wet, Charl Langeveldt, Vernon Philander and Justin Ontong. Coach: M. Barney.

Umpires: A.V. Jayaprakash and C. Mohite; Third umpire: Sanjay Hazare; Match referee: Pratap Desai.

Match timings: 9 a.m. to 4.45 p.m.; Lunch: 12.30 p.m. to 1.15 p.m.

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