Patel stakes claim for Test spot
Samit Patel was the clearest 'winner' in England's stalemate against India A at the Brabourne Stadium.
In an opening tour match which meandered to an inevitable draw, Patel's maiden hundred put him in the frame for a Test return as a likely number six batsman in Ahmedabad. Others too could lay claim to a favourable first experience on tour, Alastair Cook beginning his tenure as permanent Test captain with a century and Kevin Pietersen returning to England colours.
For him, Wednesday's half-hour spar with old adversary Yuvraj Singh brought 23 frenetic runs before he fell caught-and-bowled to the part-time slow left-armer - who was to finish with five for 94 in England's 426 all out.
Pietersen, Cook (119) and Patel (104) can therefore press on with confidence intact or enhanced from a match after which - conversely - prospective Test opener Nick Compton's third-ball duck on debut and Steven Finn's thigh injury will be England's biggest concerns.
Once it became clear victory would not be possible inside three days, priorities were exclusively to ensure best preparation for the four-Test series ahead - and England duly settled for the moral success of a first-innings lead of 57, before their hosts closed out the contest on 122 for four second time round.
England have two more opportunities to fine-tune performance and well-being before the first Test on November 15. Sadly, however, Finn is highly unlikely to take part in at least the first of those fixtures - a three-day match starting against Mumbai A on Saturday - as he undergoes a "rehabilitation programme", after pulling up injured after just four overs here.
Yuvraj added the wickets of Matt Prior (51), Patel and finally James Anderson. Yuvraj, better-known as a batsman, took the bowling honours in an England innings underpinned by a stand of 169 between Cook and Patel.
That fifth-wicket partnership finally ended when the captain succumbed at last, caught behind pushing forward at Ashok Dinda. Cook batted for almost six-and-a-half hours, faced 269 balls and hit 14 fours.
There were the same number of boundaries in Patel's century, from 161 deliveries, a career milestone acknowledged by an understated raise of the bat in the direction of his team-mates.
Patel was by then joined by a characteristically fluent Prior, who produced a series of trademark cuts on his way to a run-a-ball half-century before edging an attempted drive at Yuvraj to Suresh Raina at slip. Patel fell in the same over, nowhere near the pitch but going through with an attempted drive and simply chipping a catch to cover.
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