Battling injuries and Covid-19 scares, India managed to make the most of their four-day practice match against Leicestershire at Grace Road. The brightest spot perhaps was that R Ashwin, who had tested positive for Covid-19 at the time of departure for England, was on the field and got two wickets.
Ashwin didn’t play any of the first four Tests of the series, but looking at how the pitches in England have behaved in the New Zealand series, there could be grounds for Ashwin to play ahead of pace bowling allrounder Shardul Thakur.
Other than Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, who usually prefers overs under his belt, kept bowling for both sides and got two spells in. Mohammed Shami, who last bowled on day two, sent down a fiery spell post lunch, which at one point read 3-3-0-0 and included a dropped catch of Hanuma Vihari.
The form of the prospective No. 3 batter for India could be a bit of a concern as he looked short of scoring options. His three innings in the match were 3 off 23, 20 off 55 and 26 off 86. However, it can sometimes be unwise to read too much into these numbers: it is possible Vihari was only looking for time in the middle and not necessary scoring runs.
One batter looking for runs was Shubman Gill, who scored a quickfire 62 off 77, to go with a total of 59 off 62 in his previous two innings in the match. It is possible that Gill wasn’t particularly switched on, but his dismissal looked disappointing on the face of it. Two balls before lunch, Ashwin moved his deep midwicket to deep square leg, and then tossed the last ball before the break nicely on the leg stump, and Gill duly swept it straight down the lap of the fielder.
Ashwin showed more good signs in his analysis of 11-2-31-2 as he got one to drop nicely on Leicestershire captain Sam Evans, and then turned it past him to have him stumped.
Across three innings, Bumrah bowled 29 overs for the solitary wicket of Virat Kohli, but this might just be the workout he needed going into the Test. There were precious few clues if you were looking at who might replace Rohit Sharma as captain if required, but if you pressed hard, Bumrah was seen setting fields for a bit.
As for the match, Leicestershire, set to win 367 on the last day, batted through to 219 for 4 in 66 overs before the teams agreed on a draw just after tea. Louis Kimber scored an unbeaten half-century.