Kallis and Amla star on a day of batting practice
Board President's XI 318 (Nayar 100, Dhwan 70, Morkel 3-24, Parnell 3-66) drew with South Africans 354 all out (Amla 72 retd, Kallis 63 retd, Chawla 4-88)
They may have got just two days of warm-up cricket, but the South Africans made the most of it in Nagpur. All their major batsmen got a decent hit, and none of them looked in obvious discomfort in adjusting to the conditions. Jacques Kallis got his tour off to a rollicking start, scoring a fifty in about 40 minutes and drawing the few spectators into generous applause as he walked off, unbeaten, to give the rest of the batsmen a look-in.
Kallis acknowledged the cheers with a semi-raise of the bat, but there were no half measures in his batting. Before him, Ashwell Prince, Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla took time to settle in. Prince and Amla started off in extremely cautious fashion. Defence, defence, defence first and attack later seemed to be the order of the day, and all three got good scores by going through the routine. Prince looked the least comfortable of the lot, but was never in trouble.
Kallis had none of the inhibitions that the top three had, in opening up against a friendly bowling attack. The best quality of his batting - judging the length earlier than most other batsmen do - was on ample display. It was as if he read the length from the bowlers' minds. When the spinners, R Ashwin and Piyush Chawla, bowled full, he danced down the track and went either straight down the ground or inside out. He didn't mind the slog-sweep either. The quicker men - Abhimanyu Mithun, R Vinay Kumar, Manpreet Gony and Umesh Yadav - didn't escape the square-drive, the cut, and the pull. He came in to bat minutes before lunch, and 34 minutes after the interval he had brought up his fifty with a lovely straight lofted six, his third, off Chawla. The next ball he cut away for four, bringing up 50 runs in boundaries alone.
Thereafter Kallis tried to change the length and manufacture strokes by walking down the track to fast bowlers, but was beaten on a couple of occasions, attempting pull shots. Satisfied with his day's work, he walked off, letting his team-mates have their only hit in the middle before the Test that begins on Saturday.
Amla, who indulged in his favourite flicks, cover-drives and square-cuts, after a circumspect start, was the next man to retire not out. By then, though, he had overtaken Kallis' score, and the South Africans had reached 236 for 2. That brought AB de Villiers and JP Duminy to the middle when the spinners were on. It was ideal practice for them as most of the times during the Test series, they will be expected to walk in with spinners in operation. By the same token, the top order got a hit against the quick men, followed by some spin.
Chawla, who had missed most of the first session because of fever, and had then been on the wrong side of Kallis, came back well to dismiss de Villiers and Duminy on either side of tea, after they had both looked solid in scoring 27 and 39 respectively. Chawla went on to dismiss Johan Botha and Wayne Parnell in quick succession before Dale Steyn provided further entertainment to the 50-odd people at the ground, who had originally come to see local boy Yadav bowl.
Steyn tucked into Ashwin's innocuous offspin, hitting four sixes, three of them in one over. Going for the fifth, he was caught at long-on by Vinay, and a satisfied Smith chose to declare the innings closed at eight down. Steyn proceeded to hug Vinay and Manish Pandey, both his Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mates, and the South Africans thanked their opponents for a good practice match. Parthiv Patel hung around with Mark Boucher, gleaning some wicketkeeping tips. It was followed by a loud and raucous football match among the South Africans. Their faces were of men who were content with having made as much use as possible of a short warm-up match leading into a tough Test series.