For a match that started off with a slight shock for the touring Indians, the first day of their tour opener against Guyana could not have been better, with all the regular bowlers getting some crucial wickets under their belt ahead of the first Test on April 11.
After having practiced with Kookaburra balls, there was some consternation in the Indian camp when they were handed Duke balls for the match. Luckily there was enough time for manager Gautam Dasgupta to rush to the hotel and bring back six Kookaburra balls to be used instead.
India, in fact, took on what was virtually a second-string Guyana team, with the real stars such as Carl Hooper, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Reon King and Mahendra Nagamootoo away in Kingston competing in the final of the Busta International Shield against Jamaica.
The Guyana Board President's XI, thus, expectedly fared poorly against some good bowling from, surprisingly, a full-strength Indian team. It was, in fact, a most auspicious beginning for the visitors when Javagal Srinath dismissed Andrew Gonsalves caught behind off the very first ball of the match.
Zaheer Khan got an edge from Narsingh Deonaraine in the very next over, the catch being comfortably pouched by VVS Laxman at second slip.
None of the Guyanese batsmen, barring Homchand Pooran and, to a lesser extent, K Arjune, could come to terms with the Indian attack. Arjune made 25 at the top of the order before falling to Harbhajan Singh. Pooran was the highest scorer of the innings, hitting 41 in 143 minutes with three fours and a six.
Along with Reon Griffith (10), Pooran induced signs of frustration in the Indian bowlers. The pair did not score their runs quickly, but their 21-run partnership consumed 15 overs after lunch.
Zaheer Khan finally broke the stand, Dasgupta taking a smart low catch to get rid of Pooran. The innings did not last much longer, and Guyana were skittled out for 118.
The Indians will take heart from the performances of Srinath (2-20), Zaheer Khan (2-22) and Anil Kumble (2-28). The star of the bowling attack, however, was Harbhajan Singh, who returned figures of 19-5-37-4. Combined with the fact that, barring Brian Lara and Carl Hooper, few of the West Indians play spin well, Harbhajan's form is a very good omen for the tourists.
In the Indian innings, Dasgupta was run out early for just six. Shiv Sunder Das and Sourav Ganguly, who came in at number three, added 24 runs for the second wicket before the former was dismissed for 20 by D Dasrath.
At the close of play, India were 73 for two in response to Guyana's low total. Ganguly looked in good touch, unbeaten on 40, while Sachin Tendulkar took his time at the crease, making just three out of the third-wicket partnership of 31 runs.