The India 'A' team that is taking on England in the three-day warm-up match at the Brabourne stadium has quite a few players who stand a chance of making it to the Test team for the upcoming series.
Among them are Yuvraj Singh and Manoj Tiwary, who made most of opportunity by scoring timely half-centuries on Day 1 of the match. However, the same cannot be said about the team's pace bowlers. Simply put, all four failed to make an impression on the second day as England amassed 286 for 4 by stumps, in reply to India A's 369 all out.
It was left to Yuvraj to deliver with the ball too for the hosts. The all-rounder triggered a mini collapse in the post-lunch session, claiming the wickets of England's leading batsmen, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell, in back-to-back overs.
The Indians, with four seamers and no frontline spinners, looked totally clueless in the post-tea session as Alastair Cook and Samit Patel batted confidently and scored at a fair pace. The duo stitched together a 153-run partnership to put England back in the contest.
At one stage, after England lost three quick wickets, it looked as if the Indians were justified in going into the match without a spinner. But once Cook and Patel got going after tea, the absence of a specialist spinner was sorely felt.
Cook led from the front with a patient century, as he batted for six hours to score 112, while Patel gave ample proof of his abilities with the bat with a fluent knock of 82.
Quizzed whether his team missed the services of a frontline spinner on a slow wicket at Mumbai's Brabourne stadium, India 'A' captain Suresh Raina replied: "Yuvraj and me both bowled close to 40 overs. He took two and I took one, so I think we managed the spin department really well."
He also refuted claims that the BCCI deliberately left out a spinner so as to deny England practice ahead of the Tests.
"I don't think that's the case. It has been five years since the IPL, and all the England players know how to play spin bowling. Earlier they were planning to give a seaming track, because for a three-day match you cannot give a spinning track," he said.
Pietersen's comeback was a short-lived, He could score just 23 before he was caught and bowled by nemesis and good friend Yuvraj, whom he once famously referred to as the 'pie-chucker'.
Raina revealed that it was planned to get Yuvraj to bowl against Pietersen, who has this weakness against the left-arm spinners early on in his innings.
"Yuvraj got success against him earlier as well, so I told him just bowl two overs. Yuvraj had got KP last time when they came here during the Chennai Test and then in the One-Dayers too. And, today, again, he got his wicket. So the plan worked really well," he said.
Raina paid tribute to opposite number Cook, who fought brilliantly for his hundred, saying he looks good to score plenty of runs in the upcoming four-Test series.
"Cook is looking solid. He will definitely score a lot of runs this season. He has been batting really well since the last two years. I wish him luck. Hopefully, he will do well against India."
Image: Yuvraj Singh prepares to bowl to Kevin Pietersen
Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters