Root bowls himself into Test contention as England endure tough day in the field
13:22 GMT, 4 November 2012
England’s bowlers sampled a taste of what could await them in the Test series as they laboured for 81 overs at the DY Patil Stadium for only four wickets.
An attack that contained three members of the likely side for the first Test at Ahmedabad – James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Samit Patel – gave little away on an attritional day’s cricket as Mumbai A inched towards 232 for 4.
But neither did they look especially threatening, and perhaps the most significant moment came when Joe Root – the most part-time of off-spinners – removed the highly rated Shikhar Dhawan in the first over after lunch.
Long day in the field: England bowler and team captain Stuart Broad discuss field placings with James Anderson
The ball itself was an off-spinner’s classic: turn and bounce to the left-hander, followed by an involuntary poke to slip, where Anderson held on.
And it may assume greater significance in the weeks ahead, for there are still five days of warm-up cricket to go before the Tests – a period in which the management must decide which of Root and Nick Compton wins their first cap and walks out to bat with captain Alastair Cook.
Root is used to opening the bowling – if only for one over – in Twenty20 cricket for Yorkshire, a move designed to scramble the bearings of batsmen more used to pace.
In a spin: Joe Root is given the chance to show what he can do with the ball
And although his previous eight first-class victims had cost 63 apiece, it seemed no coincidence that stand-in captain Broad threw him the ball immediately after lunch.
Root launched an impassioned leg-before shout against Hiken Shah in his next over, and was given a breather with handy figures of 6-3-10-1. No slouch in the field either, he may be edging ahead of Compton, who has so far managed one run in two innings.
For England, the rest of the day turned into a game of patience, with Monty Panesar – in his first outing of the tour – ploughing a luckless furrow in what may in any case be a vain bid for a Test spot.
Eyes on the prize: England spinner Monty Panesar tries to make a catch
Rare success: Monty Panesar (R) celebrates taking wicket of Mumbai 'A' team batman Cheteshwar Pujara
Panesar had Cheteshwar Pujara – India’s Test No 3 – missed by Anderson at slip on 22, and a stumping shout against Shah turned down on 18.
Thereafter, the two batsmen bedded in on a pitch offering no more than occasional turn, both completing half-centuries in 140 balls, and raising inevitable questions about how the English attack will fare in the Tests.
It wasn’t until five overs before the close that Panesar finally broke through, having Pujara caught at slip for 87 as he pushed forward to a ball that turned just enough to kiss the outside edge. /11/04/article-2227619-15D73424000005DC-614_634x343.jpg” width=”634″ height=”343″ alt=”Watching it all the way: Cheteshwar Pujara plays a shot on day two against England” class=”blkBorder” />
Watching it all the way: Cheteshwar Pujara plays a shot on day two against England
Little luck: Jonathan Trott watches teammate Samit Patel during the second day of play
The sight, in mid-afternoon, of Steven Finn jogging on in a fluorescent bib to hand over drinks may have gladdened hearts. But although his thigh injury is said to be mending well, he is not likely to be seen again until the second Test at Mumbai.
Barring visa problems, England are hoping that Surrey fast bowler Stuart Meaker will be available as cover for Thursday’s four-day warm-up game against Haryana in Ahmedabad. He will not officially be added to the Test squad.
Earlier, England added only seven runs in half an hour for the loss of three wickets to their overnight score of 338 for 6, losing Broad (for 5), Patel (60) and Graham Onions (0) as the ball hooped around in the morning haze.
Going through the motions: England's bowlers, including Graham Onions and Anderson, worked hard with little reward
Onions then had Bhavin Thakkar caught behind for 5 to leave Mumbai A 19 for 1, before Root accounted for Dhawan to make it 47 for 2. But that was as good as it got until the late incisions from Panesar and Anderson. Shah finished on 84.
Meanwhile, India’s Test spearhead Zaheer Khan left the field with cramp after bowling 20.5 overs in a Ranji Trophy match for Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium.
Alert: Anderson (second right), Samit Patel (centre) wait in the slips
The 34-year-old left-arm seamer, who is nine wickets short of 300 in Tests, walked out of the series in England two summers ago during the first Test at Lord’s with a groin injury. Both sides will be watching his recovery with interest.