India 395 (Karthik 82, Kohli 68, Walter 4-113) and 89 for 2 (Rahul 36*, Rahane 19*) drew with Essex 359 for 8 dec (Walter 75, Pepper 68, Umesh 4-35, Ishant 3-59)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Do India know their top order? That is the pressing question the team management will want answers to building up to the first Test at Edgbaston.
It was the second over of the Indian innings on Friday. The first ball Matthew Quinn bowled to Shikhar Dhawan pitched back of a length on leg stump. This prompted Michael Pepper to shuffle to his right behind the stumps. The ball, however, moved over towards first slip. Dhawan did not have much to do.
Next ball, Quinn pitched a length ball on middle stump and got it to seam away. It was an eye-catching delivery, which beat Dhawan’s outside edge before brushing the outside of his off stump en route to the third slip. Dhawan had bagged a pair, facing all of four deliveries in the match.
If you are part of the Indian team think tank, you have an unnecessary headache: do you stick to the left-right opening combination, combining Dhawan with M Vijay or do you open with Vijay-KL Rahul and play Cheteshwar Pujara at No. 3?
Rahul showed the composure to hit his first run – a neatly flicked four – off the 22nd delivery he faced. However, seven balls later, he was put down at second slip when Matt Coles juggled thrice and put town a straightforward chance off Shane Snater.
Rahul is in the squad as the third opener, although he can play even in the middle order as he did on Wednesday. Other than that one distraction, Rahul continued to be watchful and found the rhythm he had displayed in his first innings half-century.
Rahul is surely a strong contender for at least one position: either as an opener or No. 3. Pujara, the long-term one-drop batsman, showed portents of returning to form. Rahul was on the way to scoring his second fifty in the match, but had to rush off the ground as the rains arrived an hour after tea to a welcome cheer from the locals. It transpires Essex has been thirsty for a rain for nearly two months now.
One man who has remained parched through the summer, though, is Pujara, who managed just one run in the first innings. A dry phase earlier in the summer with Yorkshire had brought back the questions over Pujara’s defence as well as his spot in the team.
When Paul Walter, the Essex left-arm seamer, sprayed frequently down the leg side, Pujara delicately flicked and paddled him for fours in the same over. He was also defending nicely, but soon fell for the bait set by Walter. The bowler had brought in a short midwicket and tempted Pujara with an over-pitched delivery. Usually, Pujara would push it quietly or bat it down but, in this case, he flicked Walter into the hands of Varun Chopra at short midwicket.
Both Dhawan and Pujara spent extra hours in training over the last few days here, observed and guided closely by head coach Ravi Shastri and batting coach Sanjay Bangar. The questions confronting Dhawan and Pujara are different. For Dhawan, it is more technical; for Pujara it is a combination of mental and technical aspects.
Vijay is the only man certain of his spot in the top order. As for the other two spots? The jury is still out.
Nagraj Gollapudi is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.