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India post 333-4 on opening day at Grace Road

Shiv Thakor took the prized wicket of Virat Kohli on an entertaining opening day of the tour match against India at Grace Road.

India made 333-4 declared from 90 overs with Shikhar Dhawan, Gautum Gambhir and Cheteshwar Pujara all making attractive half-centuries before retiring for different reasons.

The former had to leave the field after a nasty looking arm injury while Gambhir and Pujara came off to allow other batsmen some time in the middle.

Ajinkya Rahane (43*, 77b) and Rohit Sharma (43*, 64) continued the trio’s good work by putting on an unbroken 74 before the close.

For Leicestershire, Thakor clean bowled Kohli with one that nipped back, Anthony Ireland worked extremely hard and trialist Atif Sheikh caught the eye with pace and bounce throughout the day.

Thakor made a welcome return from injury in a game that saw Leicestershire name 14 players, including Lewis Hill, Rob Sayer, James Pearson and Sheikh. The quartet played in the university game at Leeds-Bradford MCCU earlier this month, and this was their first first-team appearance at Grace Road..

India utilised the whole of their 18-man squad, with a respective batting and bowling XI selected. The sides were named as follows: Leicestershire: Boyce, Smith, Robson, Redfern, Thornely, Thakor, Wells, Hill, Naik, Sayer, Sykes, Ireland, Pearson, Sheikh.

India’s batting line-up: Dhawan, Vijay, Gambhir, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Rohit, Dhoni, Saha, Binny, Jadeja. India’s bowling line-up: Ashwin, Sharma, Kumar, Aaron, Shami, Pandey, Pankaj, Jadeja, Binny, Dhoni, Kohli.

India won the toss and elected to bat first on a sunny day at Grace Road. Murali Vijay and Dhawan opened the innings and there was an early opportunity created by Ireland. Dhawan edged the last ball of the first over to third slip but the ball went through the hands of Dan Redfern at third slip and ran away for four. Sheikh also asked questions with some aggressive left arm seam bowling.

The openers settled and got the scoreboard moving. Vijay twice found the third man boundary and a beautiful punch off the back foot also went to the fence. Dhawan struck through mid-wicket, drove handsomely down the ground and clipped through square leg to pick up a trio of fours.

County persevered and after three decent overs from Pearson, an opening alliance of 46 was ended. Ireland found the edge of Vijay (20, 51b) and Angus Robson took a good low catch at gully to bring Gambhir to the wicket. Thakor came on to bowl the 17th over and Dhawan cracked through cover point to bring up the 50 with a four.

Dhawan then produced a flowing cover drive to collect his sixth boundary, and Gambhir opened his boundary account with a drive down to third man. Ireland had terrific figures of 10-5-23-1 after his second spell and his departure from the attack was followed by a flurry of boundaries.

Gambhir drove Pearson through extra cover for four while Dhawan hit four consecutive boundaries - two at the end of the 25th over and two when he regained the strike in the next over - to close in on a half-century.

The stand passed 50 with a bye, and a single took Dhawan to 50 from 78 balls (10x4) and the 100 came up at the end of the 27th over. Dhawan swept Jigar Naik for four as India went to lunch on 106-1 after 29 overs.

The opener picked up where he left off after the break by driving Ireland for four, and Gambhir punched through mid-wicket to collect his third boundary. Dhawan (60, 100b) was looking in fine fettle but he was forced to retire hurt with the India total on 116 after being struck by a Sheikh delivery that rose off the pitch sharply.

Pujara glanced, nudged and drove to the ropes, and a trio of leg-side boundaries helped take Gambhir to 49. He promptly moved to a half-century from 95 balls, with the landmark containing six fours.

Gambhir cut Naik for four before retiring on 54 (101b) and Kohli joined Pujara to form an attractive 64-run partnership. The duo each benefited from a misfield to collect four in the 51st over of the innings bowled by Naik.

A couple of classy strokes through mid-wicket brought Kohli further fours and Pujara also hit a beautiful shot in that region as he collected a fifth boundary. India were in a strong position at tea on 214-2 from 59 overs with Pujara on 37 and Kohli 24.

The stand was taken to 50 with four leg byes at the start of the evening session but there were two close calls in the 62nd over. Ireland had a big appeal for leg before against Pujara before a huge mix up nearly saw non-striker Kohli run out. To add insult to injury, Pujara ended up collecting five as the shy at the stumps went for four overthrows.

A deserved wicket came in the next over as Kohli (29, 49b) was bowled by a delighted Thakor. Runs continued to flow as Rahane twice drove through the off-side while Pujara clipped nonchalantly through mid-wicket.

Another couple of off-side boundaries followed for Rahane, and Pujara twice cut to the ropes in the 70th over. The first of those fours recorded a 94-ball 50 and he then retired on 57 (98b) at the end of the over.

Young spin duo Sayer and Sykes then had a spell bowling together but it was tough going on a good pitch against quality batsmen. Rahane cut to the ropes before Rohit struck a six over long-on and pulled and cut away for four. Rahane lofted a drive over the top before collecting two to take the score to 300.

A beautifully timed drive from Rohit scuttled through extra and the stand passed 50 before a lofted stroke over mid-wicket brought Rohit a further four. Rahane and Rohit moved into the forties with a four down to fine leg and through extra cover respectively, and the duo took their side through to the end of their 90-over allocation.

India then declared their innings, and with less than ten minutes of play scheduled, stumps were drawn by umpires Nigel Cowley and Ben Debenham. Leicestershire's young attack can be please with their efforts after sticking to their task throughout the day.

Bowling figures: Ireland 21-8-55-1, Sheikh 15-3-50-0, Pearson 16-2-57-0, Thakor 10-4-31-1, Naik 9-0-36-0, Sykes 10-0-49-0, Sayer 7-0-30-0, Thornely 2-1-3-0.

* Thanks to Ed Melia for the photograph of Shiv bowling Virat. A gallery of the game from Chris Roe of Neville Chadwick Photography, and Ed, is available HERE


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