Indian batsmen struggled against Board President's XI on a wet and soggy day at A Club ground in Colombo on Saturday in their only warm-up game before the first Test against Sri Lanka.
Star batsman Sachin Tendulkar’s entertaining 69 in 76 balls and a half-century by wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik (58 not out) were the only positives for the visiting Indians, who ended the second day on 196 for eight.
More than three hours of play was lost due to rain and a wet outfield and the game eventually got underway at 2 p.m. The Indians were soon in trouble losing five wickets for just 83 runs before tea.
However, the lower middle order fought back to get closer to President's XI first innings total of 224.
Tendulkar, who requires 172 runs to overtake Brian Lara’s world record for most runs in Test cricket, walked in at 27 for two and stamped his authority with some aggressive strokes. He was particularly harsh on left-arm spinner Rangana Herath driving him down the track on a few occasions and hoisting him once for six.
He reached his half-century off just 54 balls, pushing Herath for a single.
While Tendulkar was batting solidly, the Indians were having problems with most of their top order batsmen struggling. They were also unlucky on a couple of occasions and with batting for a second time looking unlikely, they would be going into the first Test on Wednesday slightly under-prepared.
Virender Sehwag was the other batsman who provided some resistance, scoring 27 off 43 balls with three fours. He was out leg-before wicket to Herath off the very first over of the left-arm spinner.
Earlier, Rahul Dravid was dismissed when he backed up too far and Dilhara Fernando’s fingers touched the ball after Sehwag had driven firmly.
Later, V.V.S. Laxman was dismissed in bizarre circumstances. While trying to defend a Dhammika Prasad yorker the bottom of his bat broke off and the ball rolled on to dislodge the bails.
He was out just before tea. Prasad had also dismissed Sourav Ganguly two balls earlier when the former Indian captain mistimed a pull straight to Mahela Udawatta at square leg.
India took tea at a shaky position with the scoreboard reading 80 for five and in the evening session, Tendulkar and Karthik added 52 runs for the sixth wicket before Tendulkar was dismissed.
Leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna, who had played a vital role alongside mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis in helping Sri Lanka Army to win the country’s domestic Tier B competition, was a surprise inclusion in the Board President’s XI side and claimed the prize wicket of Tendulkar when the batsman got a thin edge trying to cut.
Karthik then paired up with Harbhajan Singh and added 30 runs for the seventh wicket and went on to reach his half-century by coming down the track and driving Herath for four. He faced 98 balls and hit six fours for his fifty.
Speaking to the media after the day’s play, Karthik said he was happy with his form running into the Test series.
“It feels good to score some runs at the start of the series. It was a great feeling to bat with Sachin. He was telling me to take my time in playing my shots and how I should phase my innings. It was a good experience.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to establish myself in the side. I am trying to make the best use of this opportunity,” he added.
With India thinking of playing five bowlers on the batsmen friendly SSC wicket, the possibility of Karthik being asked to open the innings is very much on the cards and he said he is prepared for any challenge.
“I have not been told anything as yet. If Anil Kumble asks me to open, I will be more than happy to do that. I am happy with whatever role that’s given to me as long as I play for India,” he said.