The England Lions gave the Indian bowlers a glimpse of what could be lying ahead in the NatWest Series, which starts on Tuesday. The Lions set India a steep target of 297 in a warm-up game at Northants on Saturday.
Riding on a 96-run stand between skipper Vikram Solanki (60 off 65) and dashing top-order batsman Luke Wright (56 off 40) for the second wicket, and then a 73-run partnership between Ravi Bopara (37 off 51) and wicketkeeper Paul Nixon (39 off 49) for the sixth, the England Lions posted a convincing 296 for eight wickets in their allotted 50 overs.
The Indian chase was only 6.5 overs old when rain forced players off the field. The two openers, Sourav Ganguly and Robin Uthappa, were at the crease on 18 and 12 respectively. The steady drizzle which followed forced the match to be completely called off at 4.15 local time.
Dhoni's day out
In the morning, the man of the moment was Indian vice-captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was leading the team in the absence of Rahul Dravid. Dhoni, who will lead India in next month's inaugural World Twenty20 Championship in South Africa as well, won the toss and, seeing the overcast conditions, decided to put the opposition in.
Three changes in team
The Indians made three changes to the team that played Scotland in Glasgow on Thursday, Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan and Rohit Sharma coming in for Rahul Dravid, Rudra Pratap Singh and Dinesh Karthik.
Wright on song
Ajit Agarkar, who had appeared rusty against Scotland, looked to have found his stride as he bowled a tidy first spell, which read 4-0-11-1. He got rid of opener Darren Maddy in the fourth over. Maddy, who will travel to South Africa next month with the England squad for World Twenty20, chipped one straight to Munaf Patel at mid-wicket.
Next in was Luke Wright, who is being talked about as the most promising young batsman in English cricket. Wright didn't take much time to announce his arrival and smashed the first ball he faced — off Zaheer — past the covers for a boundary. He hit Zaheer for a boundary each in his two overs, the seventh and the ninth of the innings, forcing Dhoni to bring Munaf Patel into the attack in the 10th over. But Wright took to him too, hitting him for three successive boundaries. Munaf's first over went for 16 runs and Dhoni had to replace him with Piyush Chawla as early as the 14th over.
Wright reached his fifty off only raised 34 balls, but didn't last too long after that, edging one off Ramesh Powar to Dhoni, who took a smart one-handed catch. He fell on 56.
This started a mini-collapse as the Lions were reduced from 108 for one to 149 for five in the space of just over eight overs. Powar was the wrecker-in-chief, getting the prized scalps of Ian Bell (21) and Owais Shah (1).