Indian top order fires in unison
The Indian top order quickly slipped into the groove on the England tour as they came up with a strong batting display on the opening day of the warm-up cricket match against Sussex county club in Brighton.
Helped by solid half-centuries from Dinesh Kaarthick (76), Gautam Gambhir (81) and skipper Rahul Dravid (57 batting), the Indians finished the day with a formidable first innings total of 281 for 3.
VVS Laxman was the other at the crease batmsan on 37.
The tourists lost a wicket in each session while scoring 69, 97 and 115 runs respectively in first, second and final sessions.
Former Pakistani off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq was the most economical bowler for Sussex with 1-47 from 19 overs.
Wasim Jaffer (7) was an early casualty in the innings, after Dravid called correctly and had little hesitation in batting first.
The Mumbaik opener edged pacer Robert Martin-Jenkins to wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd for 12 in the 17th over of the day.
However, Kaarthick and Gautam Gambhir batted confidently to share a 129-run for the second wicket before they both got out when looking well set for a hundred.
That brought Dravid and Laxman together in the final session and the senior pros complimented each other well to press home the advantage on a good pitch.
At the start of the day both Kaarthick and Jaffer had a good look at the opening bowlers James Kirtley and James Lewry without taking any risks.
While Jaffer was subdued right through, Kaarthick opened up with two consecutive square-drives off left-arm pacer Lewry. In the next over, Kaarthick played another fine shot straight driving Kirtley to the boundary.
A few overs later, Jaffer played his first stroke of real authority when he cover drove Robert Martin-Jenkins to the fence. However, the bowler had his revenge in the 17th over of the day when the India total was on 37.Martin-Jenkins had Jaffer caught behind by wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd, playing away from the body, for a laborious knock that consumed 47 balls.
Both Kaarthick and Gambhir matched each other stroke for stroke as they enjoyed the perfect batting conditions - bright and sunny afternoon, a placid pitch and an attack that was at best friendly.
Kaarthick took a heavy toll on Martin-Jenkins, hitting him for three fours in an over, in the process getting past his half century.
It took him 161 min and 115 balls and he hit seven fours while reaching the 50 mark.
Kaarthick fell in the final over before tea when he was beaten by flight and turn, and was bowled by former Pakistan offie Saqlain Mushtaq for 76 off 177 balls with 10 fours.
Gambhir overcame his early circumspection and came into his own cutting forcefully and pulling powerfully.
He was particularly severe on anything short or wide and he brought up his half-century with a couple on the on-side off Liddle.
It took him 153 min and 91 balls and he struck four fours.
Gambhir followed him to the pavilion soon after tea, when he tried to go over the top and offered a return catch to left-arm spinner Michael Yardy who was leading the side in the absence of Chris Adams.
The Delhi left-hander in all faced 167 balls and struck seven fours.
In the final session Dravid batted positively thriving on a dropped catch to pile on the agony for Sussex.
Dropped on 11 when he pulled Mardy to Liddle at mid-wicket, the Indian captain played some handsome shots in front of the wicket to collect boundaries.
He then became the third Indian batsmen to post a half-century, pulling Kirtley to the fence.
At the other end, Laxman too stroked the ball beautifully to pierce the field with effortless ease.
A lovely cover-drive off Kirtley with sweet timing underlined his class.
India rested Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Zaheer Khan from its playing eleven to try out the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Ranadeep Bose.
Sussex gave a break to its captain Chris Adams, Murray Goodwin, Mushtaq Ahmed and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan.