Bairstow digs in for England
England XI 338 for 5 (Bairstow 118, Morgan 76, Patel 59*) v Mumbai A
Jonny Bairstow made optimum use of his first outing on England's tour of India as his century coupled with a 156-run stand for the fifth wicket resurrected the England innings and helped the visitors end the opening day at 338 for 6 against a mediocre Mumbai A bowling attack at the Dr DY Patil Sports Stadium on the outskirts of Mumbai.
Though Bairstow, Morgan and Samit Patel managed to get valuable game practice, a revamped England XI - with five changes from the team that took on India A earlier this week - was deprived of facing quality spin yet again as the second-string Mumbai team management seemed to have taken a cue from the national selectors' policy of not including a specialist spinner in the team. While the national selectors hadn't included one for the game at the Brabourne Stadium, the only specialist spinner in the Mumbai A squad, Sagar Gorivale, served drinks all through the day instead of bowling on a wicket that had a tinge of grass.
So it didn't come as surprise that bulk of the bowling load was shared by pace bowlers. On a day that saw the Mumbai A failing short by three overs, only 23 were bowled by part-time offspin of newly married Shikhar Dhawan, Suryakumar Yadav and Nikhil Patil (Jr).
The wicket did assist seam bowlers early on and the Mumbai A bowling attack, led by Kshemal Waingankar who had 11 first-class caps before coming into the game, troubled both the England openers vying for the slot vacated by Andrew Strauss. While Joe Root, replacing captain Alastair Cook, survived the first session, Nick Compton failed to make a mark for the second successive time.
Compton, who failed to open his account against India A, saw his off stump being uprooted by Waingankar, who had dismissed five England batsmen in a one-day warm-up game four years ago, off the first ball of the fifth over.
While Root preferred to guard his wicket, Jonathan Trott timed the ball sweetly ever since he took guard. Having driven Shardul Thakur and Javed Khan, both right-arm medium pacers, through covers, Trott seemed to be set to better his 59 against India A at the Brabourne.
However, Trott's attempt to drive one from Khan that was slightly short of a length after spending a little over an hour at the wicket failed and he could only managed to nick it straight into wicketkeeper Sufiyan Shaikh's hands. And that set the loudest cheer from the scant crowd at the stadium that was hosting its maiden first-class game. Not because the handful of spectators, dominated by students as the stadium is situated in the premises of a university, were happy to see the back of Trott but in anticipation of Kevin Pietersen's arrival at the crease.
Not many were aware that Pietersen was rested along with Cook, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann and the injured Steven Finn for the game. In walked Ian Bell but even before getting his eye in, edged one from Waingankar during the bowler's second spell into Sufiyan's waiting gloves.
As if it wasn't enough to have been reduced to 64 for 3 in the opening session, Root, who appeared to be compact against pacers, glided par-timer Yadav straight into Nikhil Patil's hands at forward short leg at the stroke of lunch.
With 66 for 4, England were in danger of being bundled out cheaply. As a result, it didn't come as a surprise that Morgan and Bairstow curbed their instincts in the second session and focused more on saving their wickets rather than trying to score freely. But once they grew in confidence and the pace troika started feeling the heat, the scoring rate was on the rise in the second half of the day's play.
"It was pretty good to spend so much time at the crease and score the runs," Bairstow said. "There is a massive amount of competition in the England middle order and at the end of the only eleven people can go out there. Hopefully scoring these runs in the warm-up games will push me for a place in that side.
"I think I am targeting the first Test as well. Without doubt anyone would like to be among the eleven guys representing England. I will keep working hard and hopefully score some runs in the next warm-up game as well and if not selected I will still work hard in the nets."
The drives and the cuts and the flicks started coming at will after tea but Morgan was trapped by a Thakur yorker against the run of the play to end the 156-run association for the fifth wicket. But Samit Patel carried on from where he had left against India A and with Bairstow coming into his elements, boundaries were on the rise.
Bairstow, who will be keeping wickets in Prior's absence, completed his eighth first-class century with a square cut off Waingankar that fetched him his 12th boundary. Although England would have liked both the aggressive batsmen to take guard on the second morning, with 15 minutes remaining for the close of play, Bairstow edged Khan to Dhawan in the slip cordon.