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George Dobell in Ahmedabad
November 11, 2012
Haryana 334 (Dewan 143) and 133 for 6 (Saini 50, Bresnan 2-13) drew with England XI 521 (Pietersen 110) and 254 for 6 dec (Trott 101, Compton 79, Budhwar 3-51)
This warm-up match had become a futile exercise long before it was condemned to a draw. There were 10 overs remaining when the captains shook hands but, despite England having a decent chance of forcing victory, few would have argued with the decision. If ever a game was crying out for euthanasia it was this one. It should probably have been sent to a Swiss clinic after the third day.
It speaks volumes for the facile nature of the cricket that Nick Compton, having batted for over two-and-a-half hours, went to the nets for more meaningful practise moments after having been dismissed. He and Jonathan Trott had, after all, faced just 12 deliveries of spin between them during their first-wicket partnership of 162 in 51.3 overs.
More significant was the action on the practice ground. Both Stuart Broad and Steven Finn were able to bowl at full pace and, though Broad was perhaps not quite himself - he did not deliver a bouncer or ask for a review in five or six overs of bowling - Finn looked impressive. It remains to be seen if they suffer any reaction to the spells over the next day or two but, for now, both look to have a decent chance of being available for Test selection. Graeme Swann will also rejoin the squad on Monday having briefly returned to the UK due to a family illness.
On the pitch, Trott completed the 30th century of his first-class career. He struck the ball well but did not face a single delivery from Amit Mishra, the legspinner who has played 13 Tests for India, and will know that he will encounter much less modest bowling in the Test series.
It is open to debate how much use these warm-up games have been. While most expect the battle between India's spinners and England's batsmen to define the series, England have had little chance to prepare for that specific battle. Despite having played three warm-up games, England have faced just 13.2 overs of spin in the second innings combined: less than 11% of the second innings overs they have faced. None of them have been against what might be described as high-quality spin bowling.
While the tactic - and it is hard to believe it is not a deliberate tactic - of denying England exposure to good quality spin bowling or even spin-friendly conditions may be controversial, it is also legitimate. India would be foolish not to tailor conditions to suit them - the point of home advantage would be negated otherwise - and have, in all other ways, extended every courtesy to England. The BCCI exercised some magnanimity by allowing England to use a substitute wicketkeeper when Matt Prior was taken ill against Haryana - the Laws make it quite clear that the umpires could not allow it - and it is worth remembering that when India toured England in 2011 Northamptonshire rested several first-choice bowlers for their tour game. The days when domestic sides fielded their strongest team against touring sides are, in any country by and large, long gone.
Besides, the tactic may backfire. England's batsmen have enjoyed prolonged time at the crease - albeit against some very modest bowling - and several of the bowlers have experienced the heat of battle. Playing England into form - four of the top six have recorded centuries in the warm-up games - and confidence could come back to bite. Not so long ago, when Australia and West Indies were at their strongest, most of their domestic sides that played England gave them an almighty battle. The effect was to wear and demoralise the tourists.
England's more significant worries concern the lack of match bowling that Finn and Broad have experienced and the unconvincing nature of their slip catching. Alastair Cook, in particular, has some work to do if he is to make the first slip position his own. The thought of dropping Sachin Tendulkar early is enough to keep an England supporter awake at night with anxiety.
Some might point to the fact that they lost five wickets for 14 runs in the first innings and five wickets for 34 runs in the second. But, on both occasions, the batsmen were thrashing out in a scenario that will not be replicated in the Test series. On this occasion, Matt Prior was run out, backing up, after the bowler, Jayant Yadav, got a hand on Ian Bell's straight drive and the ball ricocheted onto the stumps, while Compton was caught down the leg side and Kevin Pietersen was caught on the long-on boundary.
There was, briefly, a moment when it appeared England might win this game on the last afternoon. When Haryana, chasing a most improbable 442 to win, slipped to 110 for 6 with nearly an hour to go, England had every opportunity to push for the win. But, realising that such an outcome was largely meaningless and that they had garnered all they could from the game, the sides agreed to shake hands early.
The bowlers had worked hard enough, by then. Stuart Meaker again generated the most pace, Tim Bresnan also bowled with good hostility and control, while Graham Onions found the rhythm that had been absent during the first innings and looked a much-improved bowler. Monty Panesar was tight as ever but, on a slightly worn pitch, generated just a little spin, while Samit Patel earned a wicket with a well-disguised change of pace. For Haryana, Nitin Saini produced a pleasing half-century, but England know this was a game and a warm-up period that offered a pale imitation of the far sterner tests that await.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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