Cricket: India's batsmen quick to find form

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India 219 for 7 v Leicestershire Match abandoned

BEFORE THE weather closed in with unerring certainty here yesterday, India would have been reflecting without too much concern on their first, exploratory World Cup warm-up, no doubt hoping that all the pitches they encounter prove to be as good as this one.

After winning the toss, they made 219 for 7 against an attack minus three of Leicestershire's front-line bowlers; an understandably variable performance, perhaps, but one that appears to need little more than fine tuning.

If no-one looked in totally irresistible form, Rahul Dravid, Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja all made runs with varying amounts of fluency and violence. Leicestershire's will not be the last attack to discover that these three thrive on width and no batsmen in the world are more prolific off their legs.

The early departure of Sachin Tendulkar, who missed a ball of full length in James Ormonds' first over and was very lbw, meant there were few pyrotechnics in the first 15 overs, which reinforced the view that all the World Cup sides will need to rethink their tactics at the start of an innings.

Ormond and David Millns, making an impressive first appearance of the season, are not the two worst new-ball bowlers to have up your sleeve in reserve. Though Ormond had some problems in dragging his line away from leg stump, this provided a bonus when Saurav Ganguly failed to control a stroke off his legs and was caught at square leg.

Dravid and Azharuddin bore testimony to the pitch's quality by batting bare-headed against the medium pacers, much as if they were operating on a sultry afternoon in Ahmedaban. Both got on to the front foot at every opportunity and Dravid's half-century, made from 82 balls, was mostly the product of well-timed drives in the arc between cover and midwicket.

Azharuddin missed little that resembled a half-volley until he mistimed an on drive and was caught at midwicket, perhaps deceived a little by one of Dominic Williamson's clever little changes of pace which did much to stop India accelerating once the quicker bowlers were off the scene.

Dravid, having batted mostly with exemplary straightness, eventually perished sweeping at the off-spinner Tim Mason and was bowled behind his legs. But, by then, Jadeja had started to sting the fielders' hands with some vigorous strokes against anything even slightly overpitched, among them a straight six off Mason, and did much as he pleased.