It was a reverse-sweep that was uncalled for. Not just because Abhishek Nayar was just 11 short of a well-deserved century. Or that he had gotten most of his runs with orthodox shots,or lets call them those typical to his unique repertoire. Most importantly,the Mumbai left-hander had made run-making look rather easy on a pitch that every other India A batsman had struggled on.
Nayar had started from where he had left off on Thursday by attacking the two left-arm West Indian spinners Veerasammy Permaul and Nikita Miller with a variety of sweeps and launching explosive cover-drives against pacer Miguel Cummings.
The West Indies A bowlers were struggling to conceive a strategy to stop Nayar. But one false shot had led to a rather tame dismissal,as he missed the ball,and was trapped lbw by a full and fast delivery from left-arm spinner Miller.
Nayar wasnt the only one kicking himself though. The 11,000-odd spectators were filled with discontent at the Jawaharlal Nehru National College of Engineering (JNNCE) ground on Friday.
For,with Nayars departure went any chance of entertainment on the tacky JNNCE wicket. It had after all taken his ingenious technique to overcome the challenge of scoring runs on it.
With his departure though,it seemed inevitable that the tempo would slow down. Eventually it turned into a painful drag,which ended with West Indies A crawling to 28 for 0 after India A were bowled out for 359 earlier.
The slowness of the wicket sucked any chance of the four-day contest turning interesting,especially after India A had cruised past their follow-on target.
The third days play had begun with VA Jagadeesh failing to reach his ton for the second consecutive outing in India A colours,being bowled by the impressive Miguel Cummings.
Wicketkeeper Uday Kaul then walked in and decided to drop anchor,intent on not letting this long-awaited chance to impress the selectors go to waste. Probably he was too determined. Generally a free-flowing batsman,the Punjab left-hander batted himself into a cocoon,while the West Indians,Cummings in particular kept eliminating Kauls partners at the other end.
Mohammad Kaif fell to a weak pull shot off Assad Fudadin,while Parvez Rasool,another naturally attacking player,too got into a shell and took 48 balls for his 11 before falling to Narsingh Deonarine. Only 75 runs were scored in 35 overs in a sluggish second session.
Kaul remained resolute,picking up runs with little risk and even managed to shepherd No 11,Mohammad Shami,for close to an hour,in a partnership that contributed 38 runs.
He eventually remained not out on 64,having faced 172 deliveries. Zaheer then dished out five uneventful overs where he didnt trouble the West Indies A openers.
The pitch possibly didnt have everything to do with the slowness of the proceedings on Day Three that has turned the final day into a mere formality.
But it did play a huge role in it. Both Nayar and Cummings admitted later in the day that it was a struggle for both batsmen,in terms of scoring runs,and for bowlers,with regard to there being zero assistance.
There are no demons on the pitch but it is very slow and run-making is not easy. It becomes a power game where you have to hit it hard as the ball goes soft pretty soon, said Nayar,who scored 89 off 88 deliveries.
With the pitch unlikely to change colour or complexion overnight,the fourth days play could well be another case of batsmen and bowlers trying their best to get the better of the wicket.
Unless Zaheer has something to say about it.
Brief scores: West Indies A 406 & 28/0 (K Brathwaite 18*,K Powell 9*) vs India A 359 all out (VA Jagadeesh 86,A Nayar 89,U Kaul 64*; M Cummins 3/58,V Permaul 2/88,N Miller 2/90,A Fudadin 2/23) on Day Three