Ajinkya Rahane 47 not out (73 balls, seven 4s)
Rohit Sharma 43 not out (68 balls five 4s, one 6s)
Team India arrived at Grace Road, the ground they are pretty familiar by now, having practiced there for four days. MS Dhoni walked in for toss, relaxed and calm and upon calling it right and electing to bat, joked India will be “fielding their usual 14”.
Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan got India off to a cautious start after Shikhar was dropped in the slips in the first over, off Anthony Ireland. As the two settled down, they left the ball well outside the off stump, looked more assured at the crease and negotiated the slight swing without fuss.
With majority of the group of spectators donning the Indian blue and cheering for Team India with the traditional dhol beats, the visitors probably felt more at home than the local boys of Leicestershire. In fact, the morning began with a loud cheer welcoming the Indian players on the field.
Basking in sunshine, Grace Road wore the look of a quaint little cricket venue whose quiet was only broken by the thwack of bat on ball and the applauding fans.
The openers put 46 in 15 overs, immediately after which Vijay nicked one to gully to give Leicestershire and Ireland their first wicket. Gautam Gambhir walked in at No. 3 for India amid enthusiastic applause from the crowd.
While Gambhir played himself in with a few prods and pushes, Shikhar played some exquisite drives and cuts. The senior of the left-handers joined the show soon with a cracking square drive to fetch his first boundary. Soon came a gorgeous punch through the covers. Shikhar got into his elements with a flurry of cover drives and cuts, and brought his half-century in 79 balls.
The Indian batsmen got a good working over from Atif Sheikh, a left-arm fast bowler who is yet to play for Leicestershire first XI. Soon after lunch, a sharp short ball from Sheikh struck Dhawan on his right arm. In what was more a precautionary step, the physio took Shikhar off the field, retired hurt.
Gambhir and Pujara were tested too by Sheikh’s sharp bounce and pace but did well to negotiate him and form a 49-run stand off 70 balls.
Gambhir, soon after bringing up his fifty, retired for 54 off 101 balls. His was a typically gritty knock one would associate with the left-hander.
Virat Kohli joined Pujara after Gambhir’s departure and the duo looked very comfortable in the middle. Virat was bowled through the gate by Shiv Thakor for 29 soon after Tea.
In the last session the sun made way for a light covering of clouds and the temperature dropped considerably. The ball started to move a little more as Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane handled it with patience. Unbeaten at Tea on 37, Pujara completed his half-century in the 70th over of the day, and just like Gambhir, retired out soon after, for 57 (98 balls).
Rohit Sharma came in with an attacking mindset to evoke a loud cheer from the spectators when he lofted off-spinner James Sykes for the first six of the innings. A few more fours – a smash through midwicket and a guide past point and a languid drive through the covers – later the crowd was chanting Rohit’s name.
The Indians declared their innings after the stipulated 90 overs on the day with the score at 333 for 4 (Gambhir and Pujara retired).