Despite Zaheer's early blow, WI A steady at 175 for 3 at tea
India A bowlers managed just one wicket in the post-lunch session as West Indies A reached 175 for three in their first innings at tea on the first day of the third unofficial Test here today
Sent into bat, a dogged half century by Leon Johnson and his crucial partnerships with Narasingh Deonaraine and Assad Fudadin steered West Indies after a couple of early wickets. Johnson and Fudadin were batting on 81 and 21, respectively after West Indies A lost Deonaraine (35) before tea.
Receiving wide praise over his 91 runs knock in Shimoga Test, Johnson was promoted to bat at number three and started his innings on a cautious note as West Indies were struggling at 53 for two. After spending some time in the middle with Deonaraine, Johnson opened up dispatching Indian bowlers for boundaries, who were banging in short, giving enough room to the Guyanese batsmen to swing his bat. Johnson, however, was uncomfortable to the balls pitched up as he survived a couple of loud shouts for caught behind and also a leg before off both Abhishek Nayar and Dhawal Kulkarni.
Johnson almost lost his wicket when he edged Kulkarni to Paras Dogra standing in the second slip, who dropped the catch which was flying over his right shoulder. The chinks in his batting armour, however, did not push Johnson into a shell. The left-handed Guyanese batsman believed in his ability and played some beautiful shots to the delight of the close to 7,000 crowd assembled at the stadium. He reached his fifty in 106 balls with nine hits to the fence.
Johnson was ably supported by Deonaraine and Fudadin, who put on a 70-run and an unbeaten 52-run partnerships for third and fourth wicket, which helped West Indies A to be in a comfortable position.
Deonaraine batted in his flamboyant style and made 35 runs in 55 balls, hitting six boundaries, before he was sent back by Nayar who pitched the ball up and an edge feel into the hands of the keeper. Earlier, the visitors reached 78 for two at lunch after Zaheer, who had a dismal outing in the Shimoga Test with figures of two for 93, grabbed the prized wicket of in-form Kraigg Brathwaite early.
Zaheer found his rhythm and steamed in as the two openers played cautiously against the left-arm pacer. India A captain Cheteshwar Pujara was happy to see the back of Brathwaite, who had been a thorn in the flesh for the host bowlers, posting two half centuries and a century in the series so far.
After the fall of Brathwaite, Johnson walked in to join Powell and both put on a 45-run partnership for the second wicket before Dhawal Kulkarni, who got his first chance to play in the series, bowled the opener.