It turned out to be a good toss to lose as England Lions batted with flair and determination to make 303 for five on day one of the first unofficial Test at the Wayanad Cricket Stadium on Thursday.
Opener Ben Duckett was the batsman behind Lions' 300-plus score, but he didn’t seem particularly happy when he met reporters shortly after stumps.
He got out on 80 (118b, 15x4) when he was looking well set for a hundred. Sam Hain was the other batsman among runs 61 (167b, 6x4) for the visitor.
Those two were not the only batsmen to frustrate the India A bowlers. Steven Mullaney (39 batting) and Will Jacks (40 batting) have so far added an unbeaten 65 for the sixth wicket to ensure the Lions upper hand on the opening day.
It is for the first time in three First Class matches played here on this ground that the batsmen have dominated. Seamers had run riot in Kerala’s quarterfinal and semifinal encounters last month.
And that could have been a reason for the host’s decision to bowl after winning the toss. But the wicket for this match has less grass and even a different soil had been used. The conditions were far less cold, too.
The Lions were off to a solid start by Duckett and Max Holden (26), putting on 82 for the first wicket, before Navdeep Saini broke that stand. The Delhi seamer found the outside edge of Holden’s bat and K.S. Bharat took a comfortable catch behind the stumps.
That brought Hain to the wicket and he too gave ample support to Duckett as the duo added 48 for the second wicket. The opener, who had guided the Lions to their only win on tour with an unbeaten 70 in the final one-dayer at Thiruvananthapuram, was looking in lovely touch.
He played some sweetly-timed strokes through the off-side and was promising more, until he was bowled by a Shardul Thakur delivery that shaped in. “I was hoping to get a hundred after doing all the hard work, and it is a shame I couldn’t,” Duckett said. “I hope I get another chance to bat in the second innings.”
Ollie Pope and skipper Sam Billings too have to wait till the second innings to make an impact in the match; with neither of them reaching a double-figure score.
As for India A’s bowling, it wasn’t a very disciplined one. Saini made an impact with two scalps, while Avesh Khan caught the eye with his pace.
England Lions (1st Innings): Max Holden c Bharat b Saini 26, Ben Duckett b Shardul 80, Sam Hain c Bharat b Saxena 61, Ollie Pop b Avesh 8, Sam Billings c Bharat b Saini 9, Steven Mullaney (batting) 39, Will Jacks (batting) 40, Extras (b-12, lb-21, nb-4, w-3) 40; Total (for five wkts. in 90 overs): 303.
Fall of wickets: 1-82, 2-130, 3-162, 4-201, 5-238
India A: Shardul 18-1-62-1, Saini 16-3-57-2, Avesh 12-3-35-1, Saxena 17-3-49-1, Shahbaz 25-5-59-0, Panchal 2-0-8-0.