Indians 311 (Rahul 111, Jadeja 75, Miles 4-45) lead County Select XI 220 (Hameed 112, Yadav 3-22, Siraj 2-32) by 91 runs
For a better part of the last ten years, the Indians have preferred to play friendly tour games in the run-up to Test series overseas. The rigours of a first-class game that they have grown to appreciate in recent times are for days like Tuesday when they were given a proper workout by a potential opponent when the Test series starts.
Haseeb Hameed, now 24, may be unrecognisable from the boyish avatar in 2016, when he broke through as a sprightly 19-year old in India . But all the traits that made him a classical Test opener in the making were on display in Chester-Le-Street on the second day of India's tour fixture against the County Select XI. He made 112, his third century of the season and eighth overall, further justifying the selectors' decision to pick him in England's squad for the first two India Tests.
For the record, the Indians took a 91-run lead, with the hosts finishing 220 for 9, with Avesh Khan ruled out of the remainder of the game due to a fractured left thumb.
Each of the Indian bowlers got a proper workout. After reducing the hosts to 56 for 4, shortly after lunch, Hameed was an epitome of composure and concentration. He focused on crease occupation for a better part of the first two sessions, before giving the Indians a glimpse of his free-flowing strokeplay in the final session.
He was particularly aggressive against Axar Patel's left-arm spin, hitting him for three successive boundaries to dash out of the sixties. Then, he carried on with the same tempo, lofting Ravindra Jadeja. In the nineties, he was kept honest as Jasprit Bumrah came steaming in for one last hurrah at the end of a long day, but Hameed didn't show signs of nerves or desperation of getting to the impending landmark, eventually getting there calmly off 228 deliveries.
The Indians were made to rue a missed opportunity after KL Rahul put down a chance behind the stumps off Patel. Hameed was on 60 when he was deceived in flight while looking to drive through the covers. He accounted for just over 50% of the runs the home team made and his 75-run partnership with Lyndon James was the highest of the day.
Hameed's footwork was crisp and unhurried. His judgment over which deliveries to play or leave, especially off Bumrah and Umesh Yadav in the morning session, immaculate. This was a statement without trying to make one - he wasn't going to be bullied by an experienced attack. As the day wore on, he showed nimble footwork against spin.
Before the Hameed show, the Indian pacers ran amok, raising prospects of enjoying a second hit at some stage during the day. While that wasn't to be, they wouldn't really complain at having a good workout against a batting line-up determined to prove themselves. Among them was one of India's own, Washington Sundar, who missed making a mark in this game. Coming in at No. 4, Sundar lasted all of seven deliveries, prised out by a Mohammed Siraj lifter that he fended awkwardly to second slip.
Jake Libby and Robert Yates were dismissed before Sundar, allowing Yadav and Bumrah to get onto the scoreboard. Libby's indecisiveness cost him as he chopped on, while Yates poked at Bumrah's away-going delivery to Rahul. As wickets fell around him, a resolute Hameed continue to grind his way through, taking 134 deliveries to raise his half-century.
Bumrah and Yadav bowled five sharp overs each before and after lunch. While Bumrah bent his back and hit the deck hard, Yadav got the ball to move away, and to his credit, he made the batters play more than they left. Shardul Thakur, who had Hameed nicking behind, ended with 14-6-31-1. He pounded in over after over, mixing up full deliveries with skiddy short ones, causing the batters to weave and duck occasionally.
Thakur had come close to picking up another wicket when James gloved a short delivery down the leg side, only for the ball to fly wide of a leaping Rahul down the leg side.
Jadeja and Patel didn't have much of a workload, mostly playing a holding role. Jadeja had a wicket to show for when he had debutant James Rew caught by Rohit Sharma at slip. Liam Patterson-White brought some late excitement to the proceedings when he took on India's premier left-arm spinner, nonchalantly lofting him over the infield, then reverse-sweeping his way to some runs and having fun at the end of a hot day before being the last man out.
As much as they would've been satisfied with how things panned out in the game, the Indians would've also been encouraged by the sight of their captain Virat Kohli, enjoying a hit at the nets a day after the BCCI said he was being rested from this game for a stiff back. At lunch, Kohli took throwdowns from Indian batting coach Vikram Rathour and specialist Nuwan Seneviratne from 18 yards. He also faced Sussex offspinner Jack Carson, with head coach Ravi Shastri observing the session from a distance.
The development was a welcome one for the Indians, who will also concerned by the fitness of vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, who has a swollen hamstring. Also part of the nets was India's most experienced fast bowler Ishant Sharma, who was back in action after picking up a hand injury on the final day of the World Test Championship final.