India A 71 for 2 (Samarth 38*, Nair 7*, Sodhi 2-11) trail New Zealand A 147 (Seifert 35*, Raval 34, Worker 33, Nadeem 4-39, Karn 4-58) by 76 runs
Players coming off a blustery New Zealand winter found themselves in a cauldron of heat and humidity in Vijayawada. New Zealand A, having had barely three net sessions on the current tour of India, failed in their first trial-by-spin bout, having been bowled out for 147.
R Samarth, the India A opener, drove home that point. He overcame a testing new-ball burst of genuine pace and late swing from Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry, to ease the nerves. But Priyank Panchal and Sudip Chatterjee's dismissal in the last hour to Ish Sodhi helped New Zealand A pull things back.
New Zealand A's decision to bat first should have negated India's spin threat, and at 72 without loss, it looked like the hosts would be challenged. But jittery footwork, which India A capitalised on through attacking fields and well thought-out plans, left New Zealand A shortchanged. Barring three batsmen - Tim Seifert, who top-scored with 35, Jeet Raval and George Worker - none of the others gave themselves time to grind the bowlers down.
India A's relentless attack that involved having slip catchers and close-in fielders to spin throughout the day, left Seifert struggling to rotate strike. Seifert, unbeaten on 33 when the seventh wicket fell, could add just two more with the lower order in the next 10 overs.
Shahbaz Nadeem, the left-arm spinner, was India A's bowling lynchpin, snuffing out two wickets either side of lunch to leave the visitors at 81 for 6 after openers Raval and Worker laid the strong foundation. Karn Sharma, drafted in to the squad on match eve as a replacement for the dropped K Gowtham, continued his Duleep Trophy form - he picked two five-fors in consecutive matches - by scything through the lower order, finishing with 4 for 58.
Raval's first big knock in the subcontinent promised much more. Barring an early reprieve behind the stumps by Rishabh Pant when he fished at an away-going delivery, he was solid. Worker, slightly more flamboyant, was happy to force his way through some runs, at times even looking to hit on the up against the moving ball. But their dismissals in the second hour resulted in a meltdown.
While Worker was caught at short leg, Raval was bowled attempting to pull a ball that came back in to cramp him for room. Henry Nicholls was beaten by Nadeem's turn and was out lbw while Will Young, who trained for a week on dustbowls In Chennai in preparation, didn't give himself an opportunity to be tested as an ill-judged leave to an in-dipper from Mohammed Siraj flattened his off stump.
In contrast to New Zealand's efforts, India were much more serene. In the two hours he batted after tea, Samarth showed exemplary judgment against the short ball. This was a direct consequence of his ability to pick lengths early against two new ball bowlers capable of cracking over 145 kph. His pull shot to deep square leg off Henry was a stand-out. This even as Panchal fought to survive, taking 20 deliveries for his first runs that came through a thick outside edge to third man.
Where India's spinners were relentless in their attack, New Zealand's slower bowlers were short and wayward to begin with. When they finally got it right, they had a wicket as Ish Sodhi had Panchal nicking to the slips. He was to be rewarded for a second time when Chatterjee played down the wrong line to be adjudged lbw.