Wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik scored an aggressive 82 not out while captain Virat Kohli warmed up nicely for the first Test against England with a half-century as India recovered from early jitters to post 322/6 on the opening day of their three-day tour match against county side Essex on Wednesday. Opener Murali Vijay (53 ff 113 balls) and Lokesh Rahul (58 off 92 balls) also scored a half-century each after the visitors opted to bat after winning the toss. Coming at number seven at the fall of Kohli (68) in the second session, Karthik smashed as many as 14 fours from 94 deliveries to remain not out on 82 along with Hardik Pandya (33 not out off 58 balls). Karthik stitched 114 runs with Rahul for the sixth wicket to take India's score past the 300 mark.
Kohli, who had struggled all through the previous Test tour of England in 2014, was instrumental in reviving the Indian innings after the visiting side were reduced to 5/2 in the third over and 44/3 in the 19th over. He came out at number five at the fall of Ajinkya Rajhne (17 off 47 balls) and along with Vijay resurrected the Indian innings with a 93-ball 68 which was studded with 12 fours.
The 90 runs he shared with Vijay four the fourth laid the foundation for the likes of Karthik and Rahul to flourish down the order as India batted for 84 overs today. With his 92-ball 58 which was studded with 12 boundaries, Rahul himself made out a case to be in the playing eleven in some point of time in the long Test tour.
After all the drama over the condition of the pitch and the outfield at this ground, which apparently led to the curtailing of the match by one day, the Indians won the toss and got down to the business of spending time at the middle ahead of the five-match Test series beginning in Birmingham on August 1.
The Indian side were, however, in the dock initially with opener Shikhar Dhawan being dismissed for a first ball duck while one down Cheteshwar Pujara made just one before he was out in the third over, leaving the visitors at 5/2. Dhawan was caught behind as the top-order found new ball bowler Matt Coles (2-31) too hot to handle.
Coles also dismissed Pujara cheaply, caught behind again, leading to Rahane coming out at number four. Even in the practice game, it was surprising to see Rahane walk out to bat at number four. He was dropped at first slip when on four, while Vijay also enjoyed an extra life when dropped at second slip when on six.
Vijay was also dropped at first slip when on 18. It would have made India's start even worse, but together they added 39 runs for the third wicket and somehow stabilised the innings. There were a lot of streaky edges from both batsmen as the new ball continued to move around. Rahane, in the 19th over, finally nicked behind to reward Matthew Quinn (1-27) who used the pitch's slope to generate away swing.
It brought Kohli to the crease as the Essex crowd welcomed him with cheers. And immediately, the visiting skipper got down to business, unleashing an array of boundaries against the wayward Paul Walter (2-90). At one point in the first session, Kohli was scoring at 100-plus strike rate as India went to lunch at 100/3. Making his lives count, Vijay scored his half-century off 104 balls. Kohli, at the other end, got to his half-century off 67 balls, and he was key in keeping the scorecard ticking.
Walter managed to rectify his line and length for a small passage of play before tea, as he removed both set batsmen in the space of four overs. Vijay was bowled, while Kohli was snapped up at first slip, Varun Chopra making no mistake for a change.
India went to tea at 201/5 with Rahul and Karthik building up a solid partnership. The duo played some attacking shots, especially Rahul, who seemed to have shrugged off the disappointment of getting dropped after his duck at Lord's.
Rahul scored his half-century off 77 balls, while Karthik played shots all over the park. The two matched each other stroke for stroke, even playing identical pull strokes. They put on 114 runs for the sixth wicket, and added respectability to India's total. Later, Rahul holed out, miscuing off left-arm spinner Aron Nijjar (1-36). Karthik and Hardik Pandya batted out the remainder of the day.