Indian batsmen and bowlers warmed up with a morale-boosting five-wicket win against Derbyshire in their second three-day tour game in Derbyshire on Thursday, ahead of the first Test against England in Nottingham starting July 9.
Chasing 142 for a win after a sporting second innings declaration on day 3 – 156 for three in 45 overs – by Derbyshire, India lost Shikhar Dhawan (9) early but cantered to their target in 36.3 overs.
Most of the Indian batsmen had valuable outings in the middle as they prepared for the gruelling five-match Test series.
Murali Vijay retired out after contributing 41 runs in 53 deliveries and stitching a 63-run second-wicket partnership with Ajinkya Rahane, who also retired out after scoring 39.
Rohit Sharma though missed out on an opportunity to spend some valuable time in the middle after falling to Derbyshire left-arm spinner David Wainwright for 10. Wriddhiman Saha looked set on 19 before being picked by left-arm pacer Greg Cork.
Comeback-man Gautam Gambhir (21 not out) and Ravindra Jadeja (0 not out) then took the visiting team to its target with more than half-an-hour left in the final day’s play.
Earlier in the day, the Indian bowlers had opted for some bowling practice after declaring their innings on the overnight score of 341 for six but Derbyshire, lying second from the bottom of the Division 2 County table, surprised the visitors by inviting them to have a go at victory.
Medium-pacer Matt Higginbottom (1/20) then justified his captain’s decision by trapping Dhawan LBW in the fourth over
of the innings but Rahane and Vijay ensured a smooth sail for the visitors.
This was after Mohammad Shami (1/39) had recovered from his suspected calf strain and bowled 11 overs, trapping Derbyshire opener Paul Borrington (29) LBW after lunch.
Meanwhile, Billy Goddleman went on to score his second half-century of the match, finishing unbeaten on 56 not out off 86 balls, including seven fours. Alex Hughes (36 not out) was the other unbeaten batsman when the innings came to a close.
It was heartening to see the Indian attack in better shape and rhythm as new-ball bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar scalped Ben Slater early, for nought. He bowled six overs and returned figures of 1-5.
Perhaps the big delight could be taken from Ishant Sharma’s spell (0-10) as he was on-the-money for the first time in the two practice games, bowling seven overs without any trouble. Interestingly, Pankaj Singh, Ishwar Pandey and Varun Aaron did not bowl in the innings.
Stuart Binny continued his fine work-out in this game, picking the wicket of skipper Chesney Hughes (20). It goes well with his spell of 1-25 in the first innings on day one as well as his half-century on Wednesday. Ravindra Jadeja (0-7) and Murali Vijay (0-29) too sent down some overs of spin.
On day one, Derbyshire had won the toss and thanks to half centuries from Wes Durston (95), Ben Slater (54) and Harvey Hossein (53 not out) posted 326 for five declared.
On the second day, Cheteshwar Pujara (81 retired out) and Binny (81 not out) had scored half-centuries to help India overtake the hosts’ first-innings score. Dhoni too enjoyed a decent hit in the middle, scoring 46 runs off 56 balls.
The match though, just like the opening game, was not accorded First-class status as the visiting Indians were allowed to field all their 18 players (11 batting, 11 fielding) in the three-day fixture while the hosts played with 12 men (11 batting, 11 fielding).
So after seeming rusty in the first practice game at Leicestershire, which ended in a draw last week, the Indian outfit looks much better to face England in the first of the five Tests at Trent Bridge.