Gambhir fifty powers Indians
Indians 270 for 6 decl (Gambhir 79 retd, Ganguly 41*, Sehwag 40, Dravid 38 retd) v KwaZulu-Natal Invitation XI
A brisk half-century from Gautam Gambhir juxtaposed with another low-scoring effort from Wasim Jaffer were the significant moments as the Indians got in some batting practice against a Kwazulu-Natal Invitation XI on the first day of their warm-up match at the Crusaders Ground. Gambhir retired after making 79, and there was useful time in the middle for the likes of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly as the Indians declared their innings at the close of play, with the scoreboard showing 270 for 6.
As the day wound down, the lack of intensity and the laid-back atmosphere ensured that only the very naïve would read too much into what was little more than a substitute for a net session.
If there was a setback, it came from the inability of Jaffer to put runs on the board. He made just two before edging Robbie Frylinck to Rivash Gobind at first slip, continuing a wretched tour where he has a highest score of 10. He might have gone even earlier, top-edging a hook that fell just short of the man running in from fine leg. Virender Sehwag was far more convincing though, lashing 40 from 46 balls before an attempted flail found first slip.
Sehwag got going by cutting Ugarsen Govender behind point for four, and with his eye well in, he then smacked one over long-on for six. Sehwag stroked three fours, and another six over square leg off Frylink before throwing it away. By then, Gambhir had already played himself, and he went on to add 116 for the third wicket with Dravid before both retired in quick succession.
Gambhir didn't hurt his Test chances with an entertaining innings against a mediocre attack. There were some lovely drives through the covers and midwicket, and when Tyron Pillay came on to bowl legspin, he targetted him straight away, pinging him for two sixes over the leg side.
Dravid started in circumspect fashion, and then opened up with some superb drives and late deflections. The only blot in the afternoon session was the cheap dismissal of VVS Laxman, who tickled one from McMillan behind the stumps. With Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni sitting out much to the dismay of the couple of hundred who had congregated in the vicinity of the bar to watch, it was left to Ganguly to push on.
Ganguly wasn't at his free-stroking best, but now and then he would dart down the pitch and thump the spinners down the ground, and cameos from Irfan Pathan and Dinesh Karthik helped push the score along. There was also a determined effort from Anil Kumble, as the home side toiled hard to finish off the job. But when the players went off for bad light with 15 minutes remaining, Ganguly was still unconquered on 41, and the Indians could look back on a useful workout if nothing else.
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo