The game had been touted as a big opportunity for Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh to stake their claim for the India number six spot. But it was 'outsider' Manoj Tiwary who made a strong case on the first day of the India 'A' tie against the visiting English side on Tuesday.
On a day characterised by rash shots by the home batsmen after skipper Raina elected to bat, Tiwary curbed his natural aggression to revive the innings that was tottering at 190 for six. The result was a 110-run stand between the Bengal batsman and Irfan Pathan that steadied the innings, although he missed out on a deserving century.
Yuvraj, making a strong case for a Test return after successful cancer treatment, didn't let go of his first opportunity to face an international bowling attack since his return. However, Raina missed the opportunity, and fell to spin, this time to Samit Patel.
Tiwary walked back dejected after he was bowled by a Tim Bresnan delivery that held its line. The shocked batsman turned to have a second look at the dislodged stumps before leaving.
However, his (93) top-score helped India 'A' finish on 369 for nine at the Brabourne stadium. The home team began well, with Abhinav Mukund, who had an edgy start, building the momentum with a quickfire fifty.
With three down for 113, Raina joined Yuvraj. The 300-odd spectators would have thought that show time had arrived. Raina decided to take the attack to the English, but the ploy did not work. He tried to defend after stepping down to left-arm spinner Samit Patel but only presented forward short-leg with an easy catch.
With the attention now fully on him, Yuvraj seemed intent on not disappointing. He started off by driving Swann to the long off boundary. Soon, he made it a point to regularly step out to the spinners, and lofted Patel over long on for a big six.
But dancing down the track ultimately brought Yuvraj's downfall. He did it too often and Swann, anticipating well, beat him in flight and got him stumped. Tiwary made good use of the crease to cut Swann and Patel through point. Once he had his eye in, inside-out shots against the spinners became a norm. Aided with quick running between the wickets, Tiwary looked set for a century, only to miss out.
For England bowlers, it was a steady start, Bresnan and Swann picking up three wickets each.