Yuvraj trumps Pietersen, but Cook marches on
Two men on the way to making comebacks for their respective Test sides faced off at the Brabourne Stadium, and it was the one whose return is less certain that won the duel. Kevin Pietersen and Yuvraj Singh have history, and the England batsman was dismissed again by the left-arm spinner he once called a "pie-chucker".
Yuvraj is making a bid to break back into India's Test squad following his treatment for a germ-cell cancer, while Pietersen is being reintegrated into the England set-up after being dropped because he criticised former captain Andrew Strauss in messages sent to South Africa players during the summer. They faced each other on either side of the lunch break.
Coming in at 97 for 2, Pietersen began fluently, scoring at close to a run a ball, and it didn't take long for India A captain, Suresh Raina, to give Yuvraj the ball. His slow-bowling options were limited because of the absence of a spinner in the India A squad.
After bowling a tight spell in the first session, Yuvraj was brought back after lunch. Alastair Cook took a single off the first ball, and the next one to Pietersen was a dot. Pietersen stepped out to the third ball, mistimed a lofted straight drive, and hit the ball back to Yuvraj to be caught and bowled for 23 off 24 balls. Yuvraj dismissed Ian Bell in his next over: a classic left-arm spinner's wicket with the ball taking the edge and going to the slip fielder. He bowled 16 overs on the second day, taking 2 for 52 and pushing his claim for a spot in India's Test team.
Not everything went India A's way, though. While Yuvraj was taking those wickets, Cook was solid at his end, batting for the entire day after James Anderson trapped Vinay Kumar lbw to end India A's innings with the first ball of the morning. Cook found support in Samit Patel and the pair added an unbroken 153-run stand for the fifth wicket.
India A's fielders, all of whom are flying to various corners of the country hours after the match ends on Thursday to play Ranji Trophy matches, had to field in the blazing sun, and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha's poor form meant they will have to endure another day in the heat.
Saha missed three opportunities to break the Cook-Patel stand. The first one came when Patel was on 29, with England XI on 182 for 4. He nicked one down the leg side off Parvinder Awana but the ball slipped out of the diving Saha's hands. In the third session, Yuvraj managed to draw Cook, on 88 with his team on 226, forward and induce an edge but Saha dropped it. And when Yuvraj drew another edge, this time Patel trying to cut on 61, Saha failed to collect yet again.
The chance of a result is now remote but the battle for the first-innings advantage is on. England are 83 runs behind with six wickets in hand.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo