If awards were given out for outstanding performances at the end of the first day's play in Shimoga, the organisers would have needed about 10,000 medals. Players from West Indies A and India A did their bit on a slow day, but even in still and balmy conditions, the spectators, who took every vantage point at the Jawaharlal Nehru National College of Engineering ground and stayed the course, were the stars. West Indies A, after choosing to bat, ended the day on 283 for 6.
Wednesday (October 2) was a day of dour cricket as India A's bowlers simply could not get enough from a pitch that was on the slower side. While the bounce was even, there wasn't enough carry for the quick bowlers to force the pace, even when they bent their backs, and on a first-day pitch, the spinners did well to mop up four wickets.
Once the result of the toss was known, spectators trained their sights on watching Zaheer Khan on the comeback trail.
Zaheer was accurate to begin with, but bowled a touch within himself in a first spell that read 5-2-6-0. Kraigg Brathwaite was cautious, as is his wont, and Kieran Powell did not get much in his hitting zone. Zaheer returned for a second spell that was bisected by the lunch break, and struggled for rhythm, overstepping frequently. His second effort, 5-0-22-1, included four no-balls and the wicket of Narsingh Deonarine, who was trapped in front of the stumps. In the second session, Zaheer's involvement was limited to a two-over spell that went for 15, in the course of which he overstepped on two more occasions. Zaheer returned for one final fling as they wound down. The lower order was subjected to some short-pitched bowling, but most of these were easily left alone in a spell that read 4-3-1-0, taking Zaheer's workload for the day to 16-5-44-1.
With West Indies A having taken a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, beating India A in the first game in Mysore, their batsmen had no need to be overly adventurous. Cheteshwar Pujara was forced to turn to spin in the 14th over, introducing Parveez Rasool, whose bustling action ensured that the ball came through at a brisk pace. Bhargav Bhatt, the left-arm spinner, tossed the ball up a bit more, and was rewarded with the first wicket of the day, when Powell was tempted into the big shot but picked out Mohammad Kaif at wide long-on. Kirk Edwards was then lured forward by Bhatt and Uday Kaul completed the stumping.
With Zaheer accounting for Deonarine, Assad Fudadin and Brathwaite bedded down for the most significant partnership of the day. Batting in a fashion you don't associate with men from the Caribbean, the two accumulated runs through dabs, flicks, pushes and nudges, running the ones and twos hard and not really looking for the big shots. With the pitch, which failed to mirror the bounce the players got used to on the practice surfaces on the outfield, taking the edge off the bowling, Brathwaite and Fudadin had little trouble in putting on 117 for the fourth wicket. Fudadin made the most of India A's hospitality - he was dropped on 12, by VA Jagadeesh at wide gully, and again on 27 by Kaif at point - and Brathwaite looked in no visible discomfort.
It was against the run of play that the fourth-wicket stand was broken, when Fudadin attempted to sweep Bhatt and missed. The finger went up, and Fudadin (63) shook his head in disappointment on the long walk back to the pavilion. As is so often the case, when one half of a long partnership falls, the other follows in quick time. Brathwaite, who had reached 82 with the help of 13 fours, and looked good for a century, fell off the 202nd ball he faced, feathering a nick to the 'keeper off Rasool.
The arrival at the crease of Chadwick Walton, the wicketkeeper, and Leon Johnson, livened up proceedings as the spinners came in for some tap. Johnson's first four scoring shots were all boundaries, and Walton was unafraid to throw his bat when there was width on offer. It was, however, this tendency that proved his downfall when Mohammed Shami got a ball to hurry through and Walton (30) was caught behind.
At the end of the day, with West Indies A on 283 for 6, neither team will be overly happy with how things went. Then again, it was that sort of pitch where spinner, fast bowler and batsmen all went away unsatisfied.