Leicestershire v Indians, Leicester, 1st day June 26, 2014

Top order leads Indians' solid effort


Indians 333 for 4 (Dhawan 60*, Pujara 57, Gambhir 54) v Leicestershire

"Atif bhai. Thoda aaram se. Mehman hain aapka. Sambhal ke dal na" (Atif, go steady. He is your guest. Please take care), a fan shouted from the Benett End after the left-arm seamer from Leicestershire hit the Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan on his right elbow, forcing the batsman to retire hurt.

Yet, it was the Indians who caused more pain for a half-strength Leicestershire side, with three of their batsmen recording elegant and effortless half-centuries. Only two batsmen were officially out as three players opted to retire before the visitors, as per the rules, declared at the end of the day.

After M Vijay bottom edged a wide delivery into gully at the stroke of the first hour, Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir created a strong platform by forging a 119-run stand for the second wicket. Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli built on it by adding 64 for the third wicket, before an undefeated 74-run stand between Ajikya Rahane and Rohit Sharma lifted the Indians to 333 for 4, and deflated the spirits of the Leicestershire bowlers.

With the forecast indicating afternoon showers over the next two days, MS Dhoni opted to bat. The Indians decided to field all 18 players, though the plan was to play 15-a-side on the eve of the match. The visitors' batting XI included everyone apart from R Ashwin.

Dhawan was one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 2013 for his match-winning knocks during India's triumph in the Champions Trophy. However, he began nervously by chasing after a full and wide delivery from Anthony Ireland and edging it to third slip, only to be handed a reprieve by Dan Redfern. It was a sharp chance. Ireland kicked the air in disgust. Dhawan brought up the Indians' fifty by slashing the medium-pacer Shiv Thakor past point for four and followed it up by going down on his knees to cover drive for another four.

Dhawan remained quiet for a brief period, going 14 deliveries without scoring, but then hit four consecutive fours. A light tap to the leg side brought up a 79-ball fifty, as well as the 50-run partnership for the second wicket with Gambhir.

By lunch, India were 106 for 1 and Leicestershire, who were missing most of their first XI following a ten-wicket loss to Surrey, were hurting. However, the hosts returned after the break with Ireland and Shaikh bowling with more intensity.

In the sixth over after lunch Shaikh, who has played only one first-class match, aimed a short and quick delivery into Dhawan's ribs. Dhawan backed out, but to his surprise the ball followed him swiftly and hit him on the right elbow. Dhawan threw the bat instantly, wincing in pain, and a few minutes later he walked back to the dressing room retired hurt. The Indian team management clarified later that the batsman was fine and there was no cause for concern.

Gambhir, in his first outing for India since losing his opening position to Dhawan more than a year ago, did not let the incident disrupt his tempo. He had hit his first boundary off his 13th delivery - an edgy square drive against Thakor - and seemed poised for a big score. He was compact, calm and comfortable against all bowlers.

Gambhir kept clipping and pushing the ball into gaps for runs, before collecting his half-century with a back-foot drive to the cover boundary against offspinner Jigar Naik. He immediately decided to retire, the first of three players to do so.

Leicestershire appeared listless for the majority of the day, with the bowlers failing to maintain a consistent line to trouble the batsmen. Having learned from their recent experiences in South Africa and New Zealand, the Indians were happy to go through the motions without doing anything silly.

Their only mistake came immediately after tea, when Kohli misread the line and played away to a full inswinging delivery from Thakor to lose his off stump. Pujara also retired soon after hitting fifty, Ajinkya Rahane started with four consecutive fours, and Rohit Sharma nearly raced to the fastest half-century of the day before the innings had to be declared.

More accustomed to the rumbling sounds inside Indian grounds, the visitors had to be content playing in front of a subdued Thursday crowd. Grace Road was reportedly sold out on the eve of the match, but virtually half the ground was empty today.

The Indians will not attach too much significance to the runs scored, considering Leicestershire and Derbysire, their opponents in the second tour match next week, occupy the bottom two rungs in Division 2 of the English County Championship. The last Championship match Leicestershire won was the final game of the 2012 season.

However, even after accounting for the quality of their opponents, the Indians wanted to clock adequate minutes in the middle and are bound to be satisfied with their returns on the first day.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Naresh on June 30, 2014, 6:54 GMT

    The Indian bowlers got a good working over by this club side. A big worry for team management. The Indian batsman did play well and happy to see Gambhir showing form signs. The batsman should make or break their spots in this tour. If not there are others like Uthappa and Manoj Tiwari waiting. Both Gambhir and Kohli could be looked at as possible future captains of the test side.

  • Raj on June 28, 2014, 10:07 GMT

    I ask from any of the Indian fan or team follower tell me one thing that all of you are always crying on Ind batsmen. Is any of your Ind batsmen have a class like Sanga & Mahela or is any of your Ind batsmen have bagged so many runs in both test & odi formats in their respective careers. plz don't mention Sachin's name whole world knows his 90% runs are from Ind or SC pitches. If anyone observes test cricket in recent time top 5 batsmen who are always consistent no matter where they are playing are 1.Sanga 2. Clarke 3.ABDV 4.Mahela 5.Amla/Mathews. No Ind batsmen is in top 5 or even in top 15 becoz they only score runs in Ind not even in SC (don't go to the ICC's Ranking they are based on performance, it doesn't matter they score in their country or not that's why 1 or 2 Ind batsmen are in ICC's Top 10 list

  • Iraj on June 28, 2014, 6:41 GMT

    It's happy to see Indian young batsmen play very well as expected. A nice series awaits. I hope this time India could do much better. England has to comeback strongly and use their best bowlers to tackle with them.

  • David on June 27, 2014, 19:41 GMT

    @ ITJOBSUCKS indignantly wrote "@Greatest_Game India living in the shadow of SL ?? Ind has won Test series in Eng 3/4 times … blah blah ... first time SL won the series in Eng!!!!…More indignant blah blah…"

    An IT job must suck if you don't give sentences a little thought!!!

    My post began "I think India have a very good chance to win this series." Opinion clear, right? I end with "Time to see if India can match SL, or if they MUST live in the shadow ..." NOT India DOES live in the shadow.

    Does would mean now, in the present: MUST, in context, means in the future. I.E. WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF INDIA CANNOT DO WHAT SL JUST DID! Even if India draw, SL's victory would OVERSHADOW that.

    If India don't win, their recent record WILL, at least for a while, be overshadowed by SL's recent achievements: World T20 Champs, (beat India in finals)… Test Series Win in Eng … etc. That is simple reality, not my opinion.

    Before posting objections, please make sure there IS something to object to!

  • Krishna on June 27, 2014, 15:24 GMT

    @ xyz-79 each and every team has some good time.now that good time with the srilanka. And also you know that the indian team give a solid confidence to the asian teams to defeat australia in their home grounds yes the sub continent teams are also capable to won the matches in oveses. And also the india is the fist sub continent team to win a odi series in ovesis. only minus point of india is our captin defenssive captian m.s dhoni.

  • ajith on June 27, 2014, 14:03 GMT

    @ brusselslion, I agree. However, I think there will be plenty of theories and excuses flying from both sides as the series goes on. As always, will be entertaining, hope the cricket is half as fun as the comments section. :D

  • Ray on June 27, 2014, 13:51 GMT

    @screamingeagle: Thanks for correcting my omission!! However, we both forgot the injury angle which @look-ma-i-am-indian mentioned, plus the inclement weather that the ECB has on stand-by, just in case India should find itself in a winning position in any of the Tests .... Alternatively, we could just forget about all the conspiracy theories and excuses, and accept that whichever team wins the series might just do so because they had played the better cricket.

  • Ashok on June 27, 2014, 13:47 GMT

    Gambhir & Dhawan are both prone to chasing balls wide outside the off stump. Today Dhawan was reprieved by a dropped catch in the slips but he won't be that lucky in the tests. Secondly. the Leicester pace attack was no match to Broad, Anderson & plunkett. They are faster, more persistent on or outside the off stump + move the ball both the ways. This will be the greatest challenge to the Indian openers. Will Dhoni still persist with Gambhir or go to Vijay to open? For the rest of the batting it was good practice of the English pitch & conditions. The ball moves in the England environment even after 4o overs & Kohli was bowled by one such ball. These are early lessons for the Indian batsmen. It remains to be seen how the India pace bowlers bowl on Day 2. It is essential to bowl on or outside the off stump to make slips count. Also who is in the slips is crucial. There are no specialist slip fielders like Dravid, Sehwag or Tendulkar. Are Ashwin & Vijay skilled to play in slips?

  • Aniket on June 27, 2014, 13:38 GMT

    @brusselslion: If India win the test series, it will be because they played better cricket. Unlike other teams and their management, our team and majority of the fans don't whinge about the quality of opposition in practice matches and pitches that vary drastically from practice matches to actual tests. We don't come to Eng/Aus/SA expecting pitches that turn square because it suits our strengths although the reverse is definitely not true.

  • Yatin on June 27, 2014, 13:03 GMT

    @ xyz_79 - Let Sri Lanka first win a test - a single test match not even a series in India and we will talk later.

    BTW, India as won at least 3 series in England earlier. As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, have they even one a single series before this one?