Kohli, Rayudu fire in Indians' win
India 230 (Rayudu 72, Kohli 71, Rayner 4-32) beat Middlesex 135 (Karn 3-14) by 95 runs
Nearly two months into the tour, two ducks and four other single-figures scores later, Virat Kohli registered his first fifty, leading the Indians to a win in their only warm-up one-day match before the ODI series starts on Monday. This won't even count as an official fifty or a List A win because India persisted with their policy of letting the whole squad play. The win, at any rate, came against the lowly ranked Middlesex, who have won only three of their eight domestic one-day matches this year. And after they batted with reduced intensity to be bowled out for 230. Middlesex did have Steve Finn and Eoin Morgan playing, but a few of them were not first-choice Middlesex players.
Ravi Shastri, the new team director, was seen in the dressing room, wearing a suit. He spent a lot of time talking to Duncan Fletcher, but he also seemed to be having discussions with other players. MS Dhoni gave the game a miss, but he came out to field in the afternoon after having spent an hour and a half in the gym.
Apart from Kohli, Ambati Rayudu scored 72 before voluntarily ending his innings. The Indians were 211 for 5 at the end of 40 overs when Rayudu went off the field. The next four wickets fell for 19 runs in 26 deliveries. The lower order had been a bit like India's top order, playing too many shots. Shikhar Dhawan found mid-off after he danced down the wicket to the left-arm pace of Gurjit Sandhu. Rohit Sharma managed to get caught at third man on the shorter side of the ground: the match was played at the edge of a square, which meant the boundary on one side was barely 45 yards. Ajinkya Rahane tried to force a short-of-a-length delivery on the up, and found mid-on. At 52 for 3 after 13.3 overs, Kohli and Rayudu came together.
Kohli did seem to have the same problem as in the Tests when he faced Finn, following shortish balls with a vertical bat not intent on hitting them hard. After he survived that spell without edging, Kohli played freely. He hit quicks over extra cover, drove down the ground, and also gave the spinners the charge. Against Ravi Patel's left-arm spin, Kohli hit a six over extra cover, chipped over that man for three, nearly got stumped, but followed up next ball with a straight loft for four. Patel finally got him caught at the wicket, though.
Rayudu's innings set off with a couple of fours to the short boundary - wide mid-on in his case - but he hardly got to face Finn. He did bat ahead of Suresh Raina, who was sent out only as an afterthought when nine wickets had fallen with plenty of overs to spare. Raina proceeded to walk past an offbreak from Ollie Rayner, who had earlier taken two good return catches.
Middlesex were hapless with the bat, which will make judging the bowling a little difficult. Their batsmen didn't possess a range of shots. Two of the first three wickets fell to strangles down the leg side, and Dawid Malan was bowled, beaten for pace by Mohammed Shami. Once Eoin Morgan fell for 16, trying to give Mohit Sharma the charge and edging through a shortish delivery, the game was all but over. India tried eight bowlers, giving everyone but the part-timers a go. Except for Ravindra Jadeja, everyone got a wicket. Karn Sharma got three.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo