Chelmsford: Pacers Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma shared four wickets between them in absence of injured R Aswhin as Essex batsmen made India toil hard by reaching 237 for five on the second day of the three-day practice game.
India, who resumed at 322 for six, lead by 158 runs after finishing their first innings at 395. Off-spinner Ashwin injured his right hand during practice before the action began on day two and did not take the field at all.
According to the team management it is not a serious injury. Ashwin did bowl in the nets during the lunch break, but did not take the field, with bat or ball, as a precaution.
Yadav (2/23) was the pick of the bowlers as he bowed a superb opening spell with the new ball. Mohammed Shami shared first-spell duties with him, and although he kept things tight, he couldn't generate the movement that his partner did.
Yadav had provided the initial breakthrough, trapping Nick Browne (11) lbw early. He used the new ball to shape it away nicely from the right-handers, while bringing it back in to the left-handed opener, and that's how he got the wicket.
Ishant Sharma (2/38) started off well and trapped Varun Chopra (16) but struggled to control of line towards the latter half of his first spell and proved expensive thereafter.
Tom Westley (57) made this waywardness count as he stroked to a half-century with 11 fours. He played quite a few streaky shots, especially against Hardik Pandya (0-41), who was easily India's second-best bowler on the day after Yadav.
Pandya bowled with good rhythm and pace, and regularly induced the batsmen forward. He should have got a wicket or two, but on a couple occasions the ball flew through the slip cordon and gully.
Shardul Thakur (1-41) was fourth change bowler, and put in a good effort under the baking sun. He dismissed Westley, who was out caught miscuing a pull.
Michael Pepper (68) though defied the Indian bowling, and stroked his way to 68 off 74 balls, inclusive of 15 fours, against a Test-quality bowling attack. He handled both Shami and Ishant with ease, especially as the latter strayed down leg too often.
Spin was only introduced in the 28th over, and Ravindra Jadeja (0-17) just sent down two overs. It will be interesting to see if he bowls on day three at all.
Ishant got his second when Pepper played on, while Yadav got his reward as he nicked off Rishi Patel (19) with another outswinger later in the day.
This was after Dinesh Karthik (82) was out caught on the first ball of day two, even as India continued to bat.
Pandya (51) then went on to complete his half-century off 81 balls, a vital knock in the context of the ensuing five-Test series, albeit he got out immediately afterwards.
Disappointingly, Karun Nair (4) got out cheaply as he played on. But Rishabh Pant (34 not out), sent out to bat at number eleven as Ashwin was injured, regaled the Essex faithful with some good stroke making as he hit six sizzling boundaries.
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