On a day of fluctuating fortunes, West Indies A batted brilliantly in first two sessions before India A bowlers fought back strongly in the last session of the first day's play to share the honours in the third unofficial 'Test' at KSCA Stadium in Hubli on Wednesday. (Day 1 highlights)
Put in to bat, West Indies A were bundled out for 268 in their first innings after a spirited bowling by the Indians in the post-tea session, which saw them picking up last five wickets for just 28 runs. (Read: Not giving easy boundaries helped us restrict West Indies A, says Abhishek Nayar)
In reply, India A were 10 for no loss with openers Gautam Gambhir and V A Jagadeesh batting on two and eight, respectively.
Abhishek Nayar finished with figures of four for 61 and Dhawal Kulkarni claimed three for 60, while Zaheer, left-arm orthodox spinner Bharghav Bhatt and pacer Ishwar Pandey bagged wicket apiece.
India A bowlers faced a difficult time in first two sessions inspite of out-of-favour Indian pacer Zaheer Khan giving an early breakthrough in seventh over itself.
The visitors, riding on a valuable 81-run knock by Leon Johnson and his crucial partnerships with Narasingh Deonaraine (35) and Assad Fudadin (47), managed to post 175 for three at tea, losing just a wicket in the post-lunch session.
However, Indian bowlers, especially Mumbaikars Nayar and Kulkarni tore apart the middle and lower order in the final session of the day.
West Indies A were in complete control at 175 for three when tea was taken.
But just after the break, Johnson walked gingerly back to the pavilion after being trapped plumb by Nayar. He faced 148 balls, smashing 15 during his crucial knock.
After Johnson's departure, the rest of the batsmen collapsed like a pack of cards, except Fudadin who scored vital runs off 95 balls with the help of three boundaries, before he was out to a magnificent diving catch by Jagadeesh in second slip off Kulkarni's bowling.
West Indies A could manage only 93 runs after losing Johnson at 175 as fourth West Indies A wicket.
Jahmar Hamilton (15), Nikita Miller (18), Ashley Nurse (4) and Delorn Johnson (0), did not have any answer to some witty bowling by Nayar and Kulkarni.
Earlier, the post-lunch session belonged to Johnson as he along with Deonaraine made merry by dispatching Indian bowlers for boundaries, who were banging in short, giving enough room to the batsmen to swing the bat.
Johnson, however, was uncomfortable to the balls pitched up as he survived a couple of loud shouts for caught behind and also leg before off both Nayar and Kulkarni.
He almost lost his wicket when he edged Kulkarni to Paras Dogra standing in the second slip, who dropped the catch which was flying over his right shoulder.
The chinks in his batting armour, however, did not push Johnson into a shell. The left-handed Guyanese batsman believed in his ability and played some beautiful shots to the delight of the close to 7,000 crowd assembled at the stadium. He reached his fifty in 106 balls with nine hits to the fence.
Johnson was ably supported by Deonaraine and Fudadin. He first put on 70 runs with Deonaraine for the third wicket and then shared a 52-run stand with Fudadin for the fourth wicket.
Deonaraine batted in his flamboyant style and his knock came off 55 balls, hitting six boundaries, before he was sent back by Nayar who pitched the ball up and an edge feel into the hands of the wicketkeeper.
The visitors had earlier reached 78 for two at lunch after Zaheer, who had a dismal outing in the Shimoga Test with figures of two for 93, grabbed the prized wicket of in-form Kraigg Brathwaite early. The left-arm pacer found his rhythm and steamed in as the openers played cautiously against him.
Brathwaite's wicket was an important one, considering that he had been a thorn in the flesh for the host bowlers, posting two half-centuries and a century in the series so far.
After the fall of Brathwaite, Johnson walked in to join Powell and both of them put on a 45-run partnership for the second wicket before Kulkarni, who got his first chance to play in the series, bowled out the opener.