India A 144 for 4 (Shaw 62, Pant 37*) trail England Lions 423 (Cook 180, Gubbins 73, Malan 74) by 279 runs
Prithvi Shaw provided further notice of his outstanding talent with an eye-catching innings at New Road.
On a surface on which all other batsmen found progress painstaking, Shaw struck a swift 62 to reinforce the impression that he is a young man with a bright future.
Eighteen years old and bearing a striking resemblance, at the crease at least, to Sachin Tendulkar, Shaw has arguably been the stand-out success of this India A tour. With three centuries to his name – two in List A cricket and another in the first-class match against West Indies A – on the trip already, he was the only man to make more than 37 on a day on which 12 wickets fell.
While his form probably comes too late to earn him selection for the Test squad, he was the man who stood out in a batting line-up studded with quality players. It will surely not be too long before he makes the step up to the next level.
Batting was substantially more difficult than it had been on an opening day which saw the fall of just two wickets. With the ground covered by cloud for much of the day, there was more swing available to the seamers, while the slow pace of the pitch served to frustrate the batsmen of both sides.
England lost eight for 113 in the first 40 overs of the day. With Mohammed Siraj, in particular, going round the wicket and bowling a probing length, run-scoring became difficult. Alastair Cook and Dawid Malan both paid the price for attempting forcing strokes by playing-on off inside edges, before Ollie Pope was beaten by a quicker one that didn’t turn from the left-arm spinner while Chris Woakes left one that hit his middle stump. Cook showed his hunger for runs was undiminished by reacting to his dismissal with an angry swish of the bat while Malan may feel he didn’t do quite enough to put his selection for the Test beyond doubt
But the England selectors – Ed Smith and James Taylor were here once again – will have been delighted to see Woakes return to cricket after a six-week injury lay-off. Maintaining an impeccable length, Woakes generated decent pace and a little swing in a seven-over spell. If he reports no ill-effects overnight, he should be able to play in Warwickshire’s Championship match starting on Sunday with a view to confirming his availability for the first Test.
But it was Matt Fisher who stood out in the England attack. Moving the ball away from the right-hander, he claimed the wicket of Mayank Agarwal, who poked at an outswinger, before Karun Nair clipped one – “a leg stump half-volley,” as Fisher described it – to mid-wicket. Meanwhile Murali Vijay played around a straight one from Jamie Porter, while Shaw’s impressive innings was ended when he was drawn into a footless drive at one well outside off stump.
Fisher has been in the England system for several years – he played for England U19s and looked a real talent when bowling to the England squad in the nets ahead of the 2013-14 Ashes Test in Sydney – but has been frustrated by a succession of injuries; this is just his seventh first-class game. Still aged only 20, however, he is clearly one to keep an eye upon.
Had England Lions been able to accept chances offered by Ajinkya Rahane on 19 – Porter’s wayward throw failed to make the most of a run-out opportunity – and Pant on 29 – Rory Burns did well to reach a tough chance at mid-off but was unable to cling on – India A would have been in some trouble. As it was, though, Pant was able to counter-attack in typically aggressive style and Rahane settled in to provide obdurate support.
Despite beating Shaw three times in his first over, Jack Leach was only given five overs and Dom Bess six as the seamers threatened more than anticipated. With the ball now soft and the pitch ever slower, both can anticipate a lot more work over the final couple of days of the game.