July 16, 2002

West Indies A keep Indians in check

Dinesh Mongia and VVS Laxman both reached 80 as the Indians' tour match with West Indies A got underway at Arundel. The rest of the top order struggled to come to terms with good bowling conditions and an accurate attack. Mongia made 87, with Laxman striking an elegant 85 as India closed in a little trouble on 253/7. The pair shared an 85-run stand for the third wicket. Chris Gayle (2-30) Marlon Black (2-35) and Ryan Hinds (2-60) were the pick of the bowlers as the Indians run rate struggled to reach three runs an over.

Mongia is a fluent left-hander, and found the boundary early to dispel all memories of a poor one-day series. Mongia scored even more freely as his innings progressed and was not in the least perplexed by the accurate off-spin of Gayle. He hit seven fours in a pleasing, confidence-boosting knock. He was bowled shortly before the close by Hinds.

Hyderabad-born Laxman mixed aggressive trimmings with measured defence and looked set for a century before he was caught by Devon Smith to give Gayle his first wicket. He faced 132 balls, reaching the boundary nine times.

With Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan rested, the Indians rang the changes. It gave an opportunity to those recently arrived for the Test series, under the captaincy of Laxman.

Play began at a snail's pace, with only 49 runs scored in the first session as the Indians looked for batting practice after winning the toss. Despite spending 60 minutes at the crease, Wasim Jaffer never looked comfortable and top-edged Black to Keith Hibbert for five.

Black and Reon King were superbly accurate early on, with only Jermaine Lawson offering the occasional boundary ball. Gayle picked up the mantle in the afternoon, his gentle off breaks working well on a pitch conducive to the art. King left the field with an injury after taking the new ball.

Laxman raised the tempo, the stylish right-hander dispatching a couple of early off-side boundaries. Shiv Sunder Das (29) battled hard, but was adjudged lbw to Hinds shortly after lunch.

After Sanjay Bangar had gone for nought, the young wicket-keeper Ajay Ratra occupied the crease for an hour and a half before he was trapped palpably leg-before by King for 15. 17-year-old Parthiv Patel hit three boundaries before he was clean bowled by Black from the final ball of the day.