Honours were even, as the West Indies 'A' batted brilliantly in the first two sessions and India 'A' bowlers fought back strongly in the last session, at the end of Day 1 in the third unofficial 'Test' at KSCA stadium in Hubli on Wednesday.
Put in to bat, West Indies ‘A’ were bundled out for 268 in their first innings after some spirited bowling by the Indians in the post-tea session, which saw them pick the last five wickets for just 28 runs.
In reply, India ‘A’ were 10 for no loss, with openers Gautam Gambhir and V A Jagadeesh batting on two and eight respectively.
Abhishek Nayar finished with figures of four for 61 and Dhawal Kulkarni claimed three for 60, while India discard Zaheer Khan, left-arm orthodox spinner Bharghav Bhatt and pacer Ishwar Pandey bagged wicket each.
The India ‘A’ bowlers faced a difficult time in first two sessions in spite of out-of-favour pacer Zaheer providing an early breakthrough in seventh over itself.
The visitors, riding on a valuable 81-run knock from Leon Johnson and his crucial partnerships with Narasingh Deonaraine (35) and Assad Fudadin (47), posted 175 for three at tea, losing just a wicket in the post-lunch session.
However, the Indian bowlers, especially Mumbai’s Nayar and Kulkarni tore apart the middle and lower order in the final session of the day.
The West Indies ‘A’ were in complete control at 175 for three when tea was taken. But just after the break, Johnson walked gingerly back to the pavilion after being trapped plumb by Nayar. He faced 148 balls, smashing 15 during his crucial knock.
After Johnson's departure, the rest of the batsmen, except Fudadin, collapsed like a deck of cards.
Fudadin, who scored 47 vital runs off 95 balls, with the help of three boundaries, was out to a magnificent diving catch by Jagadeesh, at second slip off Kulkarni's bowling.
The West Indies then could score only 93 runs after losing Johnson at 175 as fourth wicket.
Having received wide praise following over his 91 runs knock in the Shimoga Test, Johnson was promoted to bat at No 3 and started his innings on a cautious note as the West Indies were struggling at 53 for two.
After spending some time in the middle with Deonaraine, he opened up and started dispatching boundaries. The Indian bowlers, who were banging in short, gave the Guyanese batsman enough room to swing his bat.
Johnson, however, was uncomfortable against the balls pitched up as he survived a couple of loud shouts for caught behind and also a leg before off both Abhishek Nayar and Dhawal Kulkarni.
He almost lost his wicket when he edged Kulkarni, but Paras Dogra, at second slip, dropped the catch which was flying over his right shoulder.
The chinks in his batting armour, however, did not push Johnson into a shell. The left-handed Guyanese batsman believed in his ability and played some beautiful shots to the delight of the close to 7,000 crowd assembled at the stadium.
He reached his fifty off 106 balls, with nine hits to the fence.
Johnson was ably supported by Deonaraine and Fudadin, who put on a 70-run and an unbeaten 52-run partnerships for third and fourth wicket, which helped West Indies to get into a comfortable position.
Deonaraine batted in his flamboyant style and scored 35 runs in 55 balls, hitting six boundaries, before he was sent back by Nayar, who pitched the ball up and an edge feel into the hands of the keeper.
Earlier, the visitors reached 78 for two at lunch after Zaheer, who had a dismal outing in the Shimoga Test with figures of two for 93, grabbed the prized wicket of the in-form Kraigg Brathwaite early.
Zaheer found his rhythm and steamed in as the two openers played cautiously against the left-arm pacer.
India captain Cheteshwar Pujara was happy to see the back of Brathwaite, who has been a thorn in the flesh for the host bowlers, posting two half centuries and a century in the series so far.
After the fall of Brathwaite, Johnson walked in to join Powell and both put on a 45-run partnership for the second wicket before Dhawal Kulkarni, who got his first chance to play in the series, bowled the opener.
West Indies A (1st innings):
Kraigg Brathwaite c Kaul b Khan 1
Kieran Powell b Kulkarni 21
Leon Johnson lbw b Nayar 81
Narsingh Deonarine c Kaul b Nayar 35
Assad Fudadin c Jagadeesh b Kulkarni 47
Jonathan Carter c Kaul b Pandey 17
Jahmar Hamilton b Kulkarni 15
Nikita Miller c Dogra b Nayar 18
Ashley Nurse lbw b Bhatt 4
Delorn Johnson c Kulkarni b Nayar 0
Miguel Cummins not out 0
Extras: (B-12, LB-11, W-4, NB-2) 29
Total: (all out in 77.4 overs) 268
Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-53, 3-123, 4-175, 5-199, 6-240, 7-251, 8-265, 9-268, 10-268.
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 15-5-33-1, Ishwar Pandey 16-4-44-1, Dhawal Kulkarni 16-4-60-3, Abhishek Nayar 20.4-6-61-4, Bhargav Bhatt 10-1-47-1.
India A (1st innings):
VA Jagadeesh not out 8
Gautam Gambhir not out 2
Total: (for no loss in 5 overs) 10
Bowling: Miguel Cummins 2-1-5-0, Delorn Johnson 2-1-2-0, Jonathan Carter 1-0-3-0.
Image: Abhishek Nayar finished with figures of four for 61