Indian bowlers struggled even under favourable conditions on a rain-hit third day as the visitors’ three-day practice match against Leicestershire ended in a draw on Saturday.
India managed to send down 62 overs and tried out all their front-line bowlers, but nearly all of them were taken for easy runs by the batsmen.
In the end, the hosts finished at 349/5 in response to India’s day one score of 333/4 in 90 overs.
Opener Angus Robson (126 retired out) and number three batsman Greg Smith (101 retired out) both scored hundreds, putting an unbeaten 221-run stand for the second wicket off 222 balls, heaping a lot of misery on the Indian bowlers who were struggling to find their belongings in the alien English conditions.
In the short pre-lunch session, India had managed to send down 13 overs during which the hosts scored 71/1.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (0-46) opened the bowling for India and struggled to hit a good length. He bowled a seven-over spell during which he gave away runs at nearly seven-per-over and was hit for ten boundaries
Good cloud cover and a stiff breeze made it the perfect time to bowl for medium pacers and Pankaj Singh (1-46) at the other end made perfect use of the same with a six-over spell.
The Rajasthan bowler was on the money right away, bowling with a good rhythm and consistently troubling both the batsmen. He was rewarded for his efforts when Matthew Boyce was out caught driving on the up as Ajinkya Rahane pulled off a stunning one-handed catch at third slip.
After lunch, rain stopped nearly 25 minutes into the second session and play only resumed after 75 minutes in all had been lost. It resulted in an extended post-lunch session, which began with Ishant Sharma (2-64) and Mohammad Shami taking over from the opening bowlers.
Sharma struggled the most out of all bowlers, even more than Kumar, as he conceded 27 runs off his first two overs, sending down six no-balls and conceding five fours.
His first spell of four overs saw him concede 47 runs in all. Later he returned for another four-over spell from the other end and didn’t bowl a no-ball again. It didn’t read his overall figures of 8-0-59-0.
Shami was a little bit more controlled with his line and length, bowling six overs for 0-25. Stuart Binny (0-22), Ishwar Pandey (0-31) and Varun Aaron (0-31) were the other seam bowlers deployed by skipper MS Dhoni. While the trio bowled with enough control, Aaron working up good pace, runs continued to flow unabated.
Robson reached his hundred off only 102 balls, hitting 20 fours, while his partner was in more hurry even as rain started falling again near tea-time.
He smacked Ravindra Jadeja (0-57) for two sixes and brought up his century off exactly 100 balls, including 17 fours as well. Cheteshwar Pujara (0-1) bowled a solitary over before the players went off again.
Post-tea, the two centurion batsmen didn’t take the field again. Dan Redfern (58) and Michael Thornely (23*) were the new batsmen and they put on 80 runs for the fourth wicket. The Indians deployed Singh and Jadeja once again as well as Pandey.
But it wasn’t until Sharma came back to bowl later in the session that they were able to make some inroads, after bowling listlessly throughout the day.
For Sharma, it was redemption as he took two wickets in one over perhaps showcasing that he had indeed overcome his struggles in the morning. He dismissed Redfern, after he had completed his fifty off 49 balls and Tom Wells (0) in the 59th over of the innings.
R Ashwin (0-10) then bowled a couple overs as the Indians delayed going off the field owing to poor light. When they finally did, a stipulated 22 overs were remaining in the day.
Earlier, on day one, India had won the toss and elected to bat first. The tour game was not accorded First-Class status as the visitors named all 18 players for the match. Eleven batsmen were nominated to bat and the top-order made good use of the dry conditions as also an ordinary Leicestershire attack to spend time in the middle.
Shikhar Dhawan (60), Gautam Gambhir (54) and Cheteshwar Pujara (57) had struck half-centuries, while Ajinkya Rahane (47*) and Rohit Sharma (43*) too spent valuable time in the middle and got a feel for the conditions.
Only Murali Vijay (20) and Virat Kohli (29) missed out as they were the only batsmen dismissed, while the others had retired after reaching their respective milestones.
Dhawan, who had retired hurt after being hit by a short delivery from Atif Sheikh, looked completely recovered as he fielded at first slip during the short morning session on Saturday.