The first warm-up match between India and Leicestershire at Leicester ended in an expected draw. More significantly, the match went along expected lines. The young batting line-up managed to stand up and show promise while the bowling, which was expected to struggle, failed to make any kind of impact on the Leicestershire batsmen. And so while they would be pleased with their batting effort, India would have plenty of headaches as far as their bowling is concerned as they head into the second warm-up game against Derbyshire in a couple of days’ time.
India’s batting was very impressive in the match, with three of their batsmen getting half-centuries and all the others chipping in with decent scores. In fact, not a single batsman was dismissed in single-figures during the innings. Opener Shikhar Dhawan made a fluent half-century before retiring. If anything, only his injury would be a cause of worry for India as they go into their second practice game. Gautam Gambhir, the reserve opener in the team, also got a half-century. The knock is for crucial for his confidence since he is making a comeback to the Indian side after almost a year out of the side.
Cheteshwar Pujara, who batted at number four in the game, also made an impression. He has already tasted success in South Africa and New Zealand, and would be confident of performing in England as well. His success against Leicestershire is further validation of his talent and technique. India would be looking forward to Dravid-like performances from him; after all he has replaced the great man. Lower down the order, both Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma got unbeaten 40s. Thus, India’s stint with the bat was fruitful overall, and they would be happy with the same.
Among the negatives, Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli got 20s, but got out soon after that. Still, they would at least be pleased that they got some quality time out in the middle. It is their bowling that would actually be a major worry for them. The lanky Ishant Sharma, who is supposed to spearhead the attack, was thrashed all around the park like a club bowler. Even though he claimed a couple of wickets, he gave away 64 runs in nine overs. England would be pleased to see India’s most experienced pacer in the series struggle in the manner that he did.
While Sharma struggled, the others also could not make an impression. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has the ability to move the ball around, gave away 46 runs in 7 overs. Further, Pankaj Singh also seemed nervy. He claimed one wicket and gave away 46 runs in 11 overs. Mohammed Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Stuart Binny and Varun Aaron all put in a few overs, but none could claim a wicket. The spinners expectedly struggled under the conditions. India would have to improve their bowling the leaps and bounds before heading into the first Test.
--By A Cricket Analyst