India A forge strong reply as Ramesh strikes 110
Close India A 216 for 4 (Ramesh 110, Chopra 66) trail New Zealand 375 for 7 dec (Richardson 128, Oram 101*, Munaf 3-83) by 159 runs
Sadagoppan Ramesh staked a strong claim for a national team recall with a fluent century as India A progressed to 216 for 4 at stumps on the second day against the New Zealanders at Rajkot. Stephen Fleming had earlier declared the New Zealander's innings at 375 for 7, once Jacob Oram had completed a power-packed and entertaining hundred.
Akash Chopra (66) gave Ramesh solid support, with a dogged display that combined long periods of calm with several glides and drives. The New Zealanders, after a lukewarm second session, were rewarded with four wickets in the last hour of play, when they stuck to a consistent plan.
It was a day when the run-feast continued, with Oram bludgeoning the jaded India A bowlers, and Ramesh and Chopra - with contrasting styles - laying the foundation for an effective riposte.
Oram made full use of a dried-up pitch and a disinterested bowling attack, muscling away the full-pitched balls, which were available aplenty. Oram reverse-swept Kartik twice and reached his hundred, at which point Fleming called them in.
The second session was similarly uneventful, and Chopra's vigil and Ramesh's finesse ensured that a rock-solid foundation was laid. Chopra was initially uncomfortable against every bowler, survived a huge lbw appeal against Daryl Tuffey and was foxed a couple of times by Daniel Vettori. He not only survived the test but also managed to get on top of each bowler as the day wore on.
Ramesh showed flourish right through his innings, and a keen eye assisted in pendulum-smooth drives and punched square cuts. He left the short balls for Robbie Hart, flashed rarely at the wide ones, but always cashed in on the loose deliveries. At the fag end of the day, it was Tuffey's excellent short one that finally undid him, cannoning high into the bat before lobbing up to Fleming.
Connor Williams and Mohammad Kaif were both dismissed rather tamely, a result of the New Zealanders sticking to their task while the batsmen lost concentration at the end of the day. In the absence of Bond's incisiveness and Cairns' experience, the New Zealanders will have to rely hugely on their planning and consistency. Neither Vettori nor Paul Wiseman got any purchase from the pitch, and on this display they will hold few fears for the Indian batsmen. Tuffey, Oram and Styris stuck to a definite plan but its execution over two Tests will take a lot of doing.
When Chopra and Ramesh were going strong, Fleming might have remembered the last Test he played at Ahmedabad, when Ramesh, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly enjoyed a sumptuous feast of runs. He has tomorrow, and then four more days, to chalk out a masterplan that will avert a repeat of the same story at the Motera.