England's bowlers had a better workout than their batsmen on the last day of their first tour match against India A at Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday. England added 140 more runs before being dismissed for 426, and then reduced India A to 124 for 4 in 40 overs when the match was called off.
England resumed on 286 for 4 with Alastair Cook on 112 and Samit Patel 18 short of a fine century, but still well behind the India A first-innings score of 369. The idea must have been for the duo to spend as much more time in the middle as possible - that's the formula for Cook's success as a Test batsman anyway.
But like he did on the second morning with Nick Compton, Ashok Dinda got Cook to edge one to Wriddhiman Saha in the day's fifth over to send the England captain back for 119. Dinda's celebration - a sprint down the wicket, a leap and an exaggerated fist pump - invited laughs all around, but considering Cook had batted like an impenetrable wall, the wicket was certainly a welcome break for India A.
Things started happening rather quickly after that. Patel and Matt Prior, very enterprisingly, kept the scoreboard moving quite frenetically between the 92nd and the 103rd overs - Patel reaching his century with a pulled single off Dinda and Prior bringing up his half century at a run-a-ball.
But then, in the 104th over, with Yuvraj Singh in operation, everything changed. Off the first ball of the over, Yuvraj got Prior, on 51, to edge a drive to Suresh Raina at slip for his third wicket of the innings. The last ball of the over appeared to stick in the pitch a bit and had Patel playing early, only to scoop a simple catch to M Vijay at cover. Patel fell for 104. And from 302 for 4, England had suddenly slipped to 368 for 7, still one run behind the India A first-innings score.
The England innings, worth only ten batsmen with Steven Finn ruled out, survived another 15.5 overs, added 58 further runs with Tim Bresnan hitting four fours and one six for an unbeaten 33, and finally ended when James Anderson top-edged an attempted sweep off Yuvraj to Manoj Tiwary, the forward short-leg fielder.
No frontline spinners - true, but at least on this occasion, Yuvraj made up for the absence of R Ashwin or Pragyan Ojha or one of the other senior tweakers with figures of 5 for 94 from 26.5 overs.
Having conceded a lead of 57 - however immaterial in the context of the game - Abhinav Mukund and Vijay walked out, Mukund intent on adding to his good work from the first innings and Vijay desperate to prove he shouldn't be forgotten if replacements for Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are being sought.
Mukund fell first, rather tamely, when he chipped one off Anderson to Ian Bell at mid-off in the third over. That brought Rahane, another batsman who failed in the first innings, to the middle. The next 18 overs were rather pleasing on the eye as Vijay and Rahane played a few wonderful strokes - off the pacers as well as the spinners - in a stand of 65. Two shots, in particular, stood out - once when Vijay leaned into a cover drive and sent the ball crashing into the boundary off Anderson in the fifth over and then when Rahane, in the ninth over, cut Bresnan between point and cover for four.
Vijay fell in the 21st over when he tried to steer Anderson through the slip region, but only managed to angle the ball straight to Graeme Swann, the lone wide slip. Rahane dug in for the long haul, batting sensibly, playing every ball on merit, and scoring with a fair degree of freedom.
Yuvraj, who replaced Vijay, looked a bit disinterested and got out playing a half-hearted pull to Bell at mid-on off Bresnan when 14. Raina played and missed a fair bit, especially off Bresnan, and even had a tough chance put down at second slip by Anderson off the same bowler when on zero. But Raina survived, even as Rahane looked completely at ease in his knock of 54 till, shortly before close of play, he steered Patel straight to Anderson at slip.
The match was called off 40 minutes before the scheduled close with Raina unbeaten on a scratchy 19 and Tiwary on 2.
England's next tour match starts at DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, against Mumbai A, on November 3 (Saturday).