Northapmton, Aug 6: All the build-up to Virender Sehwag's much anticipated return to the opener's slot with Gautam Gambhir at his side, amounted to naught - well, 8 an 18, if one wants to be precise - in India's important practice game against Northampton. But new-comer Abhinav Mukund saved the day by scoring 113 runs to guide India to a total of 327/7.
India were treading on familiar territory when they found themselves floundering at 49/2. Sehwag, whom one would probably expect to live and die by the sword, was uncharacteristically restrained, facing 25 balls while Gambhir endured 55 deliveries. But the Northants' new-ball pair of Dave Burton and David Willey exposed the chinks in these batsmen's armour when they each had their man lbw.
But then Mukund and VVS Laxman turned the tide for India by putting on a 132-run stand in just under 28 overs, before Laxman was unfortunate to depart on 49 when he was dismissed by seamer Lee Daggett. But Mukund pressed on and worked up useful partnerships, especially with Suresh Raina who pitched in with 33, and Amit Mishra who contributed 48.
At the end of the day, Sreesanth was on an unbeaten 15 with Mishra at the other end. While one must not read too much into India performance in such a tour game, it's heartening to know that the tourists have at least began the second half of their Test tour on the right note.
Now, in the second and last day of the match, Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan, not to mention Amit Mishra, will be keen to see if they can get their bowling act together.