Mild pace concerns for India on low-key day
Derbyshire 326 for 5 (Durston 95, Godleman 67*, Jadeja 2-27) v Indians
Mohammed Shami didn't bowl, Ishant Sharma bowled no-balls, and three batsmen who have not been finding a place in the Derbyshire first XI - one who is yet to make his first-class debut - scored fifties on the first day of India's second and last tour game before the Test series begins.
Shami sat out on the first day with a mild strain to his left calf. Ishant officially overstepped nine times in 12 overs, but there were quite a few deliveries that might have been reviewed if they had taken a wicket in a Test. Wes Durston scored a 90-ball 95 to liven up an otherwise dull day, Harvey Hosein improved massively on his previous best of 16 in 10 matches for Derbyshire 2nd XI with a stroke-filled unbeaten 53 off 89 balls, and the left-hand pair of Ben Slater and Billy Godleman chipped in with patient half-centuries to take Derbyshire to 326 for 5 at stumps. In two bowling days in their warm-up games, the Indians have conceded 675 for 10 wickets in 152 overs.
India do not take these three-day games overly seriously, but they will have mild concerns around their likely first-choice Test seam attack. Shami might just be the biggest. He has been receiving special attention from the medical staff since Monday. The rest of the quicks were given an intensive workout on Monday, but he stayed away to be tended to by physio Evan Speechly and trainer Sudharshan MV. The official word from the team is that the strain is mild, and he should be available to bowl in the second innings.
The intensity with which the Indians played would have meant no second innings, but the teams seem to have agreed on batting only 90 overs in their first innings, and 45 each on the final day. Indications remained that Ishant will be used as a first-change bowler in the Tests; the new ball in Shami's absence was taken by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Pankaj Singh. Bhuvneshwar, likely to open the bowling at Trent Bridge, failed to consistently pitch it up to extract his trademark movement either way.
Ishant's no-balls must be a bigger cause for worry. He kept adding regularly to the seven he had bowled in Leicester last week. Perhaps more worrying was umpire George Sharp's reluctance to lift his right arm. You could see, sitting square on in the press box, that Ishant flirted with the crease much more often, and got away with a few tight ones. This will only do him harm. Until he is called on these indiscretions, he will keep thinking he is all right, until one wicket-taking delivery in a Test is sent upstairs to take away the strike.
When he did not overstep, Ishant did what he does often: bowl a mixed bag - a half-volley here, a short-and-wide one there, and the odd unplayable delivery to keep the batsmen honest. Length remained an issue for most of India's quicks. Durston, who has not played a first-class game since the last week of April, pulled and cut in his counterattack after Ravindra Jadeja had taken two quick wickets either side of lunch to reduce Derbyshire to 115 for 4. Durston showed he was strong square of the wicket, and the Indians kept feeding him. Pankaj, who had taken the first wicket of the day, went for 20 in one over after tea, all through pulls. When he could not play either of those shots, Durston pulled out the ramp over the slips.
To be fair to the Indians, it was a flat pitch and quite a few edges fell short. With no result to push for in a non-first-class match, 17 players took turns being on the field, batting in the nets, or receiving attention from the staff. Wriddhiman Saha kept in the first and third sessions to allow MS Dhoni some time to field and some to have a hit in the nets.
The focus on the field remained long spells. Bhuvneshwar bowled nine overs in his first spell, Pankaj eight, and Ishant nine with no maiden and 41 runs conceded. They came back to bowl only towards the end of the day. Varun Aaron, Ishwar Pandey and Stuart Binny bowled shorter spells. Jadeja looked the likeliest to get wickets; he did get two to be 2 for 8 after his first seven overs, but then he took a bit of tap from Durston to end with figures of 11-3-27-2. R Ashwin, who seems likely to sit out of the first Test, bowled only seven overs, and had a sharp chance dropped by Virat Kohli at first slip.
Durston, Hosein, Slater and Godleman, though, used the day as a perfect opportunity to stake claims to places in the first XI of a fledgling side. They weren't complaining about what might be perceived as low intensity from the Indians. Durston said it was definitely a step up for him, and that the competition was possibly diluted because the Indians wanted to give each of their bowlers a go. It was almost as if the Indians put a new team on the field in every session, he said.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo