Samit Patel stakes claim as England's opening tour match of India meanders to draw

 

Samit Patel was the clearest 'winner' in England's stalemate against India A at the Brabourne Stadium.

In an opening tour match which meandered to an inevitable draw today, Patel's maiden hundred for his country put him bang in the frame for a Test return as a likely number six batsman in Ahmedabad this month.

Others too could lay claim to a favourable first experience on tour, Alastair Cook beginning his tenure as permanent Test captain with a typically painstaking century and Kevin Pietersen coming through his return to England colours with his reputation unscathed following his well-chronicled summer of discontent.

For him, yesterday's half-hour spar with old adversary Yuvraj Singh brought 23 frenetic runs before he fell caught-and-bowled to the part-time slow left-armer - who was to finish with five for 94 in England's 426 all out.

Pietersen, Cook (119) and Patel (104) can therefore press on with confidence intact or enhanced from a match after which - conversely - prospective Test opener Nick Compton's third-ball duck on debut and Steven Finn's thigh injury will be England's biggest concerns.

Once it became clear victory would not be possible inside three days, priorities were exclusively to ensure best preparation for the four-Test series ahead - and England duly settled for the moral success of a first-innings lead of 57, before their hosts closed out the contest on 122 for four second time round.

England have two more opportunities to fine-tune performance and well-being before the first Test on November 15.

Sadly, however, Finn is highly unlikely to take part in at least the first of those fixtures - a three-day match starting against Mumbai A on Saturday - as he undergoes a "rehabilitation programme", after pulling up injured with just four overs under his belt here.

Yuvraj added the wickets of Matt Prior (51), Patel and finally James Anderson today.

Much was made of the home selectors' decision to pick no specialist spinner for this match, thus depriving England of the chance to attune themselves to the challenge which will await them courtesy of R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha in the Tests.

But Yuvraj, better-known as a batsman, nonetheless took the bowling honours in an England innings underpinned by a stand of 169 between Cook and Patel.

That fifth-wicket partnership finally ended this morning when the captain succumbed at last, caught behind pushing forward at Ashok Dinda.

Cook batted for almost six-and-a-half hours, faced 269 balls and hit 14 fours.

There were the same number of boundaries in Patel's century, from 161 deliveries, a career milestone acknowledged by an understated raise of the bat in the direction of his team-mates.

Patel was by then joined by a characteristically fluent Prior, who produced a series of trademark cuts on his way to a run-a-ball half-century before edging an attempted drive at Yuvraj to Suresh Raina at slip.

Patel fell in the same over, nowhere near the pitch but going through with an attempted drive and simply chipping a catch to cover.

Graeme Swann was yorked by R Vinay Kumar before lunch. But Tim Bresnan and Anderson kept India A waiting afterwards, in a stand of 37 until the latter poked a sweep at Yuvraj straight to short-leg and the innings closed with Finn unavailable to bat.

Anderson's reward was to get the ball back in his hands, and he soon had opener Abhinav Mukund mis-hitting a catch straight to mid-off.

He needed a second spell to get rid of Murali Vijay, caught at a wide slip straight after tea to end a stand of 65 with number three Ajinkya Rahane (54).

Yuvraj joined Rahane to give the final throes of the contest a brief spark until he slapped a catch to mid-on off Bresnan, who would have had two wickets in three balls had Anderson clung on to a tough chance at gully to see Raina off for nought.

But with nowhere left for the match to go, England understandably declined any further offer of more bowling than might prove beneficial for a depleted attack as early handshakes were exchanged.

PA

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