Kevin Pietersen topped the bill, among England’s wall-to-wall run-makers, with a comeback century against a modest Haryana attack at the Sardar Patel Stadium B Ground in Ahmedabad yesterday.
Pietersen (110 retired out), Alastair Cook (97), Nick Compton (74) and Ian Bell (57 not out) all passed 50 as England took advantage of favourable circumstances to rack up 408 for four on day one of their final warm-up match.
As preparation for the four-Test series to come against India, the benefit of such easy pickings was arguable. But there was no question that a confidence boost for both Pietersen and new Test opener-in-waiting Compton were especially encouraging outcomes.
After Compton and Cook had set the stage, Pietersen was increasingly dominant in only his second England innings since his well-chronicled summer of discontent and subsequent reintegration.
His century from only 86 balls contained 14 fours and three sixes and should help to continue what has been a smooth return so far after his contract wrangles and other troubles.
Compton’s second successive half-century was equally good news after the man who always appeared in pole position to replace the retired Andrew Strauss at the top of the Test order had started with two failures.
Cook and Compton, batting together for the first time, breezed past a century opening stand well before lunch off all but one over of seam bowling, and that from Jayant Yadav rather than Test leg-spinner Amit Mishra.
As captain Mishra stuck earnestly to India’s strategy of depriving England of meaningful practice against frontline spin, the openers cashed in on an even batting surface.
Compton was assured from the outset and Cook had an air of command as he hit 20 fours in all after sitting out the tour match against Mumbai A last week.
Cook won the toss and was under way with a string of early boundaries, three in one over including an uncharacteristically expansive cover drive off Sanjay Budhwar.
Compton drove well through the off-side against seam and was quick to use his feet to off-spinner Yadav.
He hit nine fours in his 144-ball stay and was also the first of three batsmen – Bell and Pietersen the others – to reach his half-century by hitting Yadav over long-off for six.
Cook was within one more blow of his hundred when he edged an attempted cut behind off Yadav, Sandeep Singh taking the catch from the very first delivery after replacing the injured Nitin Saini as wicketkeeper.
Compton was joined by Jonathan Trott in a partnership which took England past 200.
But Mishra at last decided to bring himself on, at 211 for one after 50 overs, and it took only seven deliveries before he had Compton lbw pushing well forward to a quicker ball.
Pietersen got set either side of tea before Mishra had his second lbw success as Trott attempted to sweep, falling four runs short of making it a clean sweep of 50s for England.
Bell had endured a sticky start to the tour before an unbeaten 28 in his last innings. Here, he immediately took on Mishra, adding a six to an opening two in his first over faced at the start of another century stand.
Pietersen soon caught on, even unveiling a new prototype shot – a ‘reverse-scoop’ perhaps the closest description – to manufacture runs fine on the off-side when Yadav replaced Mishra again.
He gave a very sharp return chance to Yadav on 42, and a much easier one misjudged in the leg-side deep by Amit Vashisht on 85. But otherwise, there was an inevitability about a performance which will do much to reassure England and maybe Pietersen himself that he really is back.
Afterwards, Bell depicted an optimistic atmosphere in the England dressing-room – all the more so after Pietersen’s success, in only his second innings back and probably his last before the four-Test series begins.
“Everything’s gone really well for us as a group, and for Kevin,” said Bell.
“He’s very much a guy who just likes to get bat on ball, and I think he’ll be very happy going into the first Test match with that kind of innings under his belt.
“I’m sure he’ll be a lot happier today, having scored a hundred. But he’ll be a lot happier (still) if he scores one in the next Test.”