Arundel (England): Dinesh Mongia and Venkatsai Laxman both got past 80, but neither could go on to make a century on the opening day of India's three-day encounter against West Indies 'A' on Tuesday.
Their scores were the major contributions to India's stumps score of 253 for seven. And they signalled that the fight for Test places in India's talented top order was well and truly alive ahead of the four-match series with England that starts at Lord's on July 25. An understandably slow start by openers Shiv Sunder Das and Wasim Jaffer, each playing their first game of the tour following India's triangular series final win over England at Lord's on Saturday, saw just 10 runs come from the initial 14 overs.
India's players have just one more warm-up match - against Hampshire beginning on Saturday - before they return to Lord's. That makes time spent in the middle adjusting to English conditions all the more precious. But Laxman, captaining the side with Saurav Ganguly resting, soon made good on his decision to bat first once Jaffer was caught behind off the economical Marlon Black for five.
Laxman faced 132-balls including nine fours while, left-hander Mongia faced seven more deliveries for two more runs and two fewer boundaries. Das laboured on to reach 29 in 155 painstaking minutes before he was deceived by the left-arm spin of Ryan Hinds, who trapped him lbw. Laxman, who made 474 runs in five winter Tests in the West Indies, looked in good touch in an 86-run third-wicket stand with Mongia. But he was eventually undone by occasional off spinner Chris Gayle, skying a catch to Lendl Simmons in the deep to leave India 155 for three.
Mongia, dropped on 51, yet to play a Test and only still on the tour following a weekend decision to keep him in England, made a determined case for promotion to the five-day game. He shared a fifth-wicket partnership of 71 with wicket-keeper Ajay Ratra before he was bowled hitting across the line by Rodney Hinds. Mohammad Kaif, the other player granted an unplanned extension following the One- dayers, was seven not out at the close after India under-19 skipper Parthiv Patel (12) was bowled by Marlon Black off the last ball of the day.