India A quicks dismiss WI A for 268
India A 10 for 0 trail (Jagadeesh 8*, Gambhir 2*) West Indies A 268 (L Johnson 81, Nayar 4-61, Kulkarni 3-60) by 258 runs
All of India A's quicks contributed to justify Cheteshwar Pujara's decision to field, as West Indies A were bowled out for 268. Zaheer Khan didn't have the wickets to show, but there was improvement from Shimoga, both in intensity and in the discomfort he caused the batsmen. The Mumbai duo of Dhawal Kulkarni and Abhishek Nayar took seven wickets between them as West Indies A went from 240 for 5 to 268 all out.
Most of the West Indies A specialist batsmen got starts - Leon Johnson made 81 - but once again they failed to take them further. The most disappointing part for them was that they saw off the new ball when the pitch was moist, and lost wickets when the ball had become soft on a slow surface. "Disappointed after the partnership between myself and [Narsingh] Deonarine," Johnson, who fell nine short of a century in the last match, said. "We shouldn't have lost seven wickets after tea. Not taking anything away from Nayar and Kulkarni who managed to swing the ball even after tea."
This was no demon pitch, but it was expected to be at its most bowler-friendly on the first day. Needing to win this match to level the series, Pujara took that chance. West Indies A rested Kirk Edwards, Chadwick Walton and Veerasammy Permaul, with Fidel Edwards injured. India A beefed up their pace department, and Mohammad Kaif made way for Paras Dogra. The focus was squarely on Zaheer after India won the toss.
Even as Ishwar Pandey drew edges from Kieran Powell at the top of the innings, Zaheer worked Kraigg Brathwaite out. From the moment, Brathwaite followed one delivery wide outside off, Zaheer was all over him. The next ball squared Brathwaite up as it seamed away after pitching within the stumps. The next one was floated wide again, and Brathwaite duly edged it through to Uday Kaul. The cautious start had now taken a turn for the worse: 8 for 1 after 6.3 overs.
In Kirk Edwards' absence, Johnson batted at No. 3, and started cautiously. Powell, though, was squared up and bowled by Kulkarni, who angled the ball in and got it to hold its line after pitching. Johnson and Deonarine broke the shackles, benefiting from some lackadaisical fielding - Johnson was dropped by Dogra on 51. They had to negotiate a testing second spell by Zaheer, though, when the leg cutter that leaves the left-hand batsmen made a prompt appearance.
That extra enterprise, though, proved Deonarine's demise. Nayar had fallen back on the old Ranji Trophy ploy of bowling wide outside off, but in one over, Deonarine went chasing three deliveries, managing to edge the third to end the 70-run partnership.
By now, Johnson had become more fluent, and with Assad Fudadin, he gave West Indies A the most assured spell of day. There was a period when they hit at least one boundary in six successive overs, without taking a risk. As he approached the hundred, though, Johnson was adjudged lbw to Nayar bowling from round the stumps, making it 175 for 4.
Pandey came back to get Jonathan Carter, who drove loosely outside off. Fudadin too went for a back-foot drive off Kulkarni, and the ball got a bit big on him to take the edge to second slip. In between the two dismissals, Kulkarni got Jamhar Hamilton with one that stayed low.
The rest fell one after the other, although it took two superb catches. The first was Kulkarni running backwards at point to get Delorn Johnson, and the second was Dogra's leap high at gully to send back Nikita Miller, who had played two superb back-foot drives in his 23-ball 18. Gautam Gambhir and VA Jagadeesh saw off the remaining 18 minutes of play without any incident.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo