On a day when England's bowlers looked about as threatening as the Teletubbies, the most heartening sight for Nasser Hussain was the two and a half hours fielding done by the 12th man, Ashley Giles.
Giles has yet to bowl a ball in the middle, but his stint in the field as a substitute means he is about ready to have a trundle. "Realistically, I'll have to play in the next match at Jaipur if I'm to play in the Test," Giles said yesterday. "I haven't bowled a ball in a match situation for about three and a half months, so I couldn't really go into it cold."
One man who will be desperate to thaw the ice for him is Hussain. The England captain, whose body language has remained admirably upbeat, must be wondering just where wickets are going to come from after the Board President's XI, a team of mainly young hopefuls, notched up 256 for 2, and that after Matthew Hoggard struck with the third ball of the day.
It was not carnage as such, despite an unbeaten hundred from Sridharan Sriram and 83 from the captain Jacob Martin, more the gradual realisation that wickets had to be conjured by means beyond the bowlers' control. Apart from the late outswinger that Hoggard produced to find the edge of Wasim Jaffer's bat in the opening over, genuine chances were scarce.
Apart from the warning Mark Butcher received from the umpire for spitting directly on to the ball, the most puzzling sight was that of Craig White trying to fashion a new career for himself by bowling dibber dobbers. On pitches among the world's most unforgiving towards medium pace, it did not look like a sound career move.
The change in White since his injury problems has been dramatic. A year ago in Pakistan, his 90mph reverse swingers were an integral part of England's success, as was his aggressive batting. Indeed, Alec Stewart stood as far back with the gloves for him as he did to Darren Gough.
Yesterday, the wicketkeeper James Foster spent most of his time standing up to him. A few days ago, England coach Duncan Fletcher cited White's inability to bowl quick as the main reason for calling up Andrew Flintoff.
Yet White is the type of player – mentally, at least – who needs to spread the risk of failure across both his bowling and his batting and the downsizing of one role could easily bring a decline in the other.
White's experiments aside, Hussain used the opportunity to pit his two new off-spinners, James Dawson and Martyn Ball, in a head-to-head contest that Ball won by one miscued catch to mid-on, but not categorically enough for Hussain to sleep soundly.
In fact, the captain's lack of faith was shown early on when he vacated the slips to plug a hole on the off side. A few balls later Ball turned one sharply to Sriram who, on nine at the time, directed to where slip would have been had the bowler looked more threatening.
With Dawson scarcely less inviting to the batsmen, the bowling remains a massive concern, though Hoggard and James Ormond had their moments. At one stage, towards the end of the day's play, Hoggard even bowled with eight players on the off-side.
A similar tactic was used by Australia recently with some success, but it requires patience and discipline. To succeed on the slow, dusty pitches found all over India, England's young attack will have to expand their time frame, working to plans not lasting overs, but sessions.Reuse content