JONATHAN Trott bagged a century, but England had to settle for a third successive stalemate in their final warm-up match against Haryana.
The tourists dominated for most of the four days and jockeyed a position to push for an unlikely victory in the final session. In the end though, their hosts held out on 133 for six in notional pursuit of 442 to win.
Trott’s 101 (retired out) is England’s fifth century in three fixtures before the first Test against India starts on Thursday, and their likely top seven in that match have all made at least one 50 too.
Runs have been no problem, on flat pitches, but wickets have been more of a challenge, and after a mid-afternoon declaration on 254 for seven, try as they might they were unable to overhaul that trend on perhaps the least responsive surface of all.
Minor hopes were raised for a morale-boosting win with two wickets before tea and two more soon afterwards.
Stuart Meaker got rid of Rahul Dewan for only 13 and Samit Patel won a second lbw verdict against Sachin Rana.
Tim Bresnan, England’s likeliest wicket-taker throughout, was rewarded for his hard work and patience when the adventurous Sunny Singh went after off side runs but could only edge behind, and then Abhimany Khod registered his second single-figure score of the match when he too was caught by Matt Prior, having pushed forward in defence at the Yorkshireman.
Then Nitin Saini (50) edged Monty Panesar behind on the forward defence to make it 96 for five with more than an hour remaining, but despite an overdue wicket too for Graham Onions, it transpired the opener’s 84 balls of defiance had given England too much to do.
The tourists had chosen to bat on longer than most expected on the final day. They faced less than nine overs of spin for their trouble, from rookie Jayant Yadav rather than Test bowler Amit Mishra – a continued ruse, to starve them of more useful practice, which has been attributed to India’s former England coach Duncan Fletcher. Trott’s first-wicket stand with Nick Compton (79) ended when the latter was caught behind down the leg side off Rana.
England’s prospective new Test opener therefore fell short of a century, but will still go into his anticipated Test debut on the back of three consecutive 50s.
Ian Bell came in at number three as Kevin Pietersen chose, like his captain Alastair Cook, to allow others batting practice.
A series of scampered singles, and two direct hits, were the nearest Haryana came to breaking the partnership as both Trott and Bell narrowly survived third-umpire run-out calls.
There was then a collector’s item sighting of a Trott six, hit straight off Chanderpal Saini as he moved into the 90s, and soon afterwards he completed his four-hour century from 180 balls.
With Prior unlucky to be run out backing up before lunch, in 45 minutes of increasingly meaningless batting afterwards England lost four wickets for the addition of 33 runs.
They could have done without ducks for Patel and Pietersen, but the circumstances ensured neither would dwell on their failure for long.
Meanwhile, Graeme Swann will be back with the squad in India by today, after spending four days at home with his wife while his daughter was unwell.