Rajkot: New Zealand opening batsman Mark Richardson slammed an impressive 128 not out as the visitors posted a healthy 299 for five on the opening day of the three- day cricket match against India 'A' at the Corporations Ground on Thursday. The opening day also saw rookie speedster Munaf Patel grabbing the limelight with his three-wicket haul for 64 runs in the biggest match so far of his fledgling career. This was Patel's debut match in the first class cricket though he is yet to play in a Ranji Trophy game. The Kiwi opener, who was a picture of confidence, had two good partnerships after the visitors were reduced to 91 for four off 35 overs at one stage.
He first added 89 runs for the fifth wicket with Craig McMillan (30 off 74 balls) before the latter was caught by Akash Chopra in the slips off the other paceman Sreesanth, who too bowled very well. The 200 for the visitors came off 273 minutes off 66.2 overs while Richardson reached the three figure mark off 223 balls in 291 minutes when he stylishly cover drove left arm spinner Murali Kartik for a four. He added another 119 runs for the unbroken sixth wicket with Jacob Oram (59 off 82 balls with two sixes and six fours) off 202 balls to put his team in a good position at stumps. Richardson, who played a waiting game before accelerating in the final session, has so far faced 304 balls during his 381-minute stay at the wicket.
His knock includes 18 fours and a six. India 'A' captain Mohammed Kaif's move to take the second new ball after 80 overs with the score reading 256 for five did not make any impact on the two batsmen especially after Sreesanth left the field with a pulled muscle. The visitors, who were coasting at 61 for one at lunch, lost three quick wickets soon after resumption to be in a spot at tea. Skipper Stephen Fleming was the first to go when he played on to his wickets off a Patel inswinger. Patel took three wickets conceding 17 runs in his third spell of five overs. Fleming, who scored a quickfire 27 off 34 balls hitting four well-timed boundaries and a six off left arm spinner Murali Kartik.
He added 47 runs for the second wicket with Richardson before being dismissed. New man Scott Styris hit Kartik for a six and looked in fine touch. He, however, went for his shots too early and snicked an easy catch to wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta off Patel for eight. He faced 16 balls hitting just one six in his 16- minute stay at the wicket. Though much was expected from Nathan Astle, the stylish middle order batsman disappointed by lasting just one ball before being leg before wicket playing half cock to a good length delivery from Patel for no score. New Zealand reached the 100-run mark off 38.4 overs with Richardson batting on 42 and Craig McMillan on two.