Virat Kohli (left) was the stand-in captain for the day © Getty Images
Virat Kohli (left) was the stand-in captain for the day © Getty Images

By Chetan Narula

London: Aug 22, 2014

Under-fire batsman Virat Kohli finally came good and the bowlers delivered to help India beat Middlesex by 95 runs in the 50-over practice game at Lord’s on Friday. Chasing a target of 231 runs, the hosts were bowled out for 135 runs (39.5 overs) with youngster Karn Sharma picking three for 14. Earlier, Kohli and Ambati Rayudu hit half-centuries before India were dismissed for a paltry 230 runs in 44.2 overs.

Kohli scored 71 runs off 75 balls, with eight fours and a six, while Rayudu retired out after scoring 72 runs, off 82 balls, with eight fours. The two batsmen put up 104 runs for the fourth wicket after the top-order had been dismissed cheaply once again. India made first use of the wicket in this one-off practice match before the first One-Day International (ODI) in Bristol on August 25.

Kohli led the side in the absence of MS Dhoni, though the team-sheets listed that all 17 players were once included in the match, with 11 batting and 11 fielding. Shikhar Dhawan (10) and Rohit Sharma (8) were united at the top for India as they made a brisk start, scoring 19 runs in the first three overs. But then the brakes were applied as the two batsmen were dismissed within ten runs of each other.

Dhawan was caught at short mid-on in an attempt to clear the in-field while Sharma top-edged a catch to third man, albeit at the shortest boundary on the ground. Ajinkya Rahane (14) came in to bat at No 4 and he got a little cameo-start in, but then holed out at mid-off, again looking to clear the in-field.

India were struggling at 52/3 in the 14th over when Kohli and Rayudu came together. They looked comfortable at the crease, although the stand-in skipper still seemed rusty from his poor show in the Test series prior. They batted together for 16.3 runs and it seemed India were looking at a 250-plus score. But then Kohli was caught behind off left-arm spinner Ravi Patel (2-56) and that changed the complexion of the innings. Ravindra Jadeja (7) was sent up the order but he wasted this chance, holing out to deep mid-wicket in an effort to clear the ropes.

After the 200-run mark was crossed in the 40th over, Rayudu retired out and Ravichandran Ashwin (18), trapped leg-before, followed him back to the pavilion immediately. It became three dismissals in succession as off-break bowler Ollie Rayner (4-32) also sent back Stuart Binny for a first-ball duck. Young guns Sanju Samson (6) and Karn Sharma (8 not out) came together but Rayner was on a roll as he snapped up the former, caught and bowled, and then accounted for Suresh Raina (5) as well. The latter came to bat at No 11 and was held back for getting some practice in a finisher-role during the death overs, but that tactic failed as Raina was stumped cheaply.

Steve Finn (1-20), Gurjit Sandhu (1-65) and James Harris (1-29) were the other bowlers deployed by Middlesex. Their chase never really got off properly as Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1-7) and Mohammad Shami (1-13) struck early blows to reduce them to 11/2 in the fourth over. They never really recovered from those early blows and wickets fell at regular intervals to hand India victory in under 40 overs. Kumar and Shami had only bowled a combined initial spell of seven overs.

Afterwards, the incoming ODI bowlers were put into action by stand-in skipper Kohli. Mohit Sharma (1-20), Umesh Yadav (1-32) and Dhawal Kulkarni (1-13) had a nice little work-out of bowling at the Middlesex batsmen, sharing 16 overs between them. As for the spinners, Ashwin (1-16) and Jadeja (0-14) bowled six-over spells each but were trumped on the day by the new face in the team, Karn Sharma. The leg-spinner was brought in late into the attack and he made short work of the Middlesex tailenders.

Their innings had progressed only in fits and starts with no batsman able to score more than 20 runs. The joint highest-scorers were Ryan Higgins and James Harris, scoring 20 runs each. The highest partnership of the Middlesex innings was worth 34 runs for the sixth wicket between John Simpson and Andy Balbirnie, both scoring 19 runs each.

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