A lot could change in three weeks. Ask Priyank Panchal. He had come here in mid-January with the reputation as Gujarat’s run-machine, but in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Kerala, he came across a seaming track and a deadly pace attack. He made eight and three.
On his return to the Wayanad Cricket Stadium on Friday, he made up for that in style. He scored a splendid 206 (313b, 26x4, 3x6) to show his class on the third day of the first unofficial Test against England Lions.
Though, he wasn’t the only home batsman to make merry against a clueless English attack on a lifeless wicket. Wicket-keeper batsman K.S. Bharat slammed a cracking 142 off just 139 balls (11x4, 8x6).
Their fifth wicket stand of 198 helped the host declare at 540 for six – a lead of 200. Batting a second time, the Lions was 20 without loss when bad light and then rain brought a slight early close to the day’s play.
The day truly belonged to Panchal and Bharat. It could easily have been K.L. Rahul’s as well, but his attempt to cut left-arm spinner ended up in the hands of substitute Jamie Overton at point.
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The opener had added just one to his overnight score of 88; his second-wicket partnership with Panchal of 174 runs. In the very next over, Ankeet Bawne was caught well off a rebound from slip by wicketkeeper Sam Billings off pacer Zak Chappell.
A little later, Ricky Bhui too perished, to an excellent diving catch at point by Sam Hain off seamer Jamie Porter. After resuming at 219 for one, India A thus slid to 262 for four.
The Lions could not have anticipated the stage was just being set for a scintillating exhibition of strokeplay. Bharat wasted no time to get going and Panchal too accelerated.
The Gujarat opener got to his hundred with a quick single to mid-on off medium-pacer Steven Mullaney. But his next hundred was completed with a six off Briggs.
Bharat drawing inspiration from Panchal at the non-striker's end, got to his hundred in the previous over with an upper-cut over point off Chappell. It was just one of the several neatly executed aerial hits from the Andhra batsman, who, three years ago, had become the first wicket-keeper to score a triple hundred in Ranji Trophy.
As for Panchal, who completed 1,000 first class runs for the season, mixed defence and offence really well.
England Lions (1st Innings): 340
India A 540/6 decl (1st innings): K.L. Rahul c sub (Overton) b Briggs 89, Abhimanyu Easwaran b Chappell 31, Priyank Panchal c Billings b Chappell 206, Ankeet Bawane c Billings b Chappell 0, Ricky Bhui c Hain b Porter 16, K.S. Bharat c sub (Overton) b Briggs 142, Jalaj Saxena (not out) 28, Shardul Thakur (not out) 12, Extras (b-12, lb-4) 16
Fall of wickets: 1-48, 2-222, 3-223, 4-262, 5-458, 6-524.
England Lions bowling: Porter 23-4-83-1, Gregory 26-7-86-0, Mullaney 25-5-61-0, Chappell 24-2-105-3, Briggs 30.5-2-144-2, Jacks 6-0-45-0.
England Lions 20/0 (2nd Innings): Max Holden (batting) 9, Ben Duckett (batting) 9, Extras (b-1, nb-1) 2
India A bowling: Saini 1-0-1-0, Avesh 1-0-3-0, Saxena 2-0-8-0, Shahbaz 1-0-7-0.