November 22, 2001

Ramprakash brightens England's day as spinners rule the roost

As is the case so often in tour warm-up matches, the clash between England and the Indian Board President's XI at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium, Hyderabad, did more to enhance individual players' reputations than to further the cause of either team. Mark Ramprakash, batting well, helped himself to a stroke-filled 105, and England ended the first day's play on 297/9 off 90 overs. Murali Kartik and Sarandeep Singh also staked their claims for national selection by scalping eight of those wickets between them.

After Nasser Hussain won the toss and elected to bat first on a wicket that had little bounce in it for either the medium-pacers or the spinners, few were surprised as England coasted to 108/2 at lunch. Michael Vaughan, opening the batting with Mark Butcher, missed out on some good match practice when he flashed hard at a gentle outswinger from all-rounder Sanjay Bangar, presenting Dinesh Mongia with a dolly of a catch in the slips. Having made 22, Vaughan departed with the England score at an even 50/1.

Butcher (41) proceeded to dig himself in, playing a stolid yet unspectacular innings before falling to the guiles of Sarandeep Singh. Hussain, who has looked extremely comfortable out in the middle against the spinners, further grew in confidence, making 46. Unfortunately for the visitors, it was Hussain's confidence that was his undoing. Taking his eyes off the ball at the last moment, Hussain had a flamboyant flash at a ball turning away from him, only to spoon a catch to Rohan Gavaskar at point; Kartik was the jubilant bowler.

Sarandeep Singh, with his typically aggressive approach, ended the day with a five-wicket haul, snaring 5/98 off 24 overs. The more subtle yet no less talented Kartik ended with 3/77 off 28 overs. Ramprakash, however, played the kind of innings that his supporters have always said he was capable of playing under pressure. The former Middlesex and current Surrey batsman stroked the ball around the park with ease, not attempting anything extravagant. Using his feet well against the spinners, Ramprakash kept the scoreboard ticking over. Amidst a steady slew of wickets falling at the other end, he motored along, quietly cementing his position in the England team.

Speaking to pressmen just before the start of this match, the middle-order batsman said that no one in the team, not even himself, was sure of his place in the side. Striking 105 (182 balls, nine fours, two sixes) Ramprakash showed exactly the sort of character needed to bat in Indian conditions.

Whatever England desire, it is certain that the home side will do everything in their power to put a swift end to the England innings on the second day. With just one wicket remaining, captain Jacob Martin will be keen to settle the issue and get on with his own team's batting effort. With the likes of Wasim Jaffer, Sridharan Sriram, Mongia, Pankaj Dharmani and Gavaskar in the batting line-up, Martin can be fairly confident of a strong response to the English total.

On this wicket, particularly, batsmen will be queuing up to bat. Whether a depleted English bowling attack comprising Matthew Hoggard, Richard Dawson, James Ormond, Craig White and Martyn Ball is up to the task remains to be seen. If you're a punter, though, you might not want to put too much money on this attack. Especially when the wicket is doing its best to assist the batsmen, and not just any batsmen, but batsmen on the fringe of national selection and playing for national places, with all five national selectors in keen attendance.