Having bowled out for the England Lions for 340 runs in their first innings, India A had reached a commanding 219-1 when stumps were drawn on Friday.
It was a day which belonged to India A’s batsmen with Rahul and Priyank Kirit Panchal putting on an unbeaten 171-run stand for the second wicket. Rahul was batting on 88 while Panchal was unbeaten on 89 at the close of play on day two.
Having reduced the Lions to 303-5 on day one, the hosts did not take too long to wrap up the innings on the second day with seamer Navdeep Saini finishing with a five-wicket haul.
In response, India A only lost the one wicket on the day with opener Abhimanyu Easwaran falling for 31 to Lions’ medium pacer Zak Chappell.
It was a welcome return to form for KL Rahul who has struggled in international cricket of late. After a disappointing display in India’s recent tour of Australia, the top-order batsman had been indefinitely suspended by the BCCI along with Hardik Pandya for their controversial comments on a television show.
The bans on the duo were lifted provisionally by the governing body recently, making the two players available for selections once again. While Pandya was immediately flown to New Zealand to join up with India’s limited-overs squad, Rahul had to contend with a spot in the India A team for their ongoing series against England Lions.
In the one-day series between the two sides prior to the unofficial two-match Test series , Rahul had failed to fire with the bat with just 55 runs to show from three innings.
On Friday, Rahul collected 11 boundaries in his 182-ball vigil at the crease and will look to get to the three-figure mark when play resumes on day three.
England Lions: 340 all out (first innings)
Ben Duckett: 80 (118)
Navdeep Saini: 5-79
India A: 219-1 (first innings)
KL Rahul: 88 not out (182)
Priyank Kirit Panchal: 89 not out (141)
As West Indies get ready to take on England in the third and final Test of the series, hosts’ pacer Shannon Gabriel has promised complete commitment from the side in their quest to complete a 3-0 whitewash.
The hosts lead the three-match series 2-0 after emphatic victories in Barbados and Antigua and will now take on the visitors in the final Test which begins at St. Lucia on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters on the eve of the clash, Gabriel said, “This series win a great achievement for us. Thinking back about last year when we lost 0-2 in Bangladesh, we were all hurting. Thankfully, we stuck together and we came out and showcased our talents. And to show some improvement. This series win has been great and I’m really pleased to be part of it.”
“We have great confidence and we are definitely looking to make it 3-0. We’re not just going for the win, we’re also playing for the people of the Caribbean and we are also playing for points to move up the Test rankings,” added the pacer.
The third Test will see Gabriel return to venue where he finished with match figures of 13-121 against Sri Lanka last year. Those are the third best match figures ever recorded in West Indies cricket history and the 30-year-old is looking to do more of the same against the Englishmen.
“This ground has been good to me I’ve had some good times on this ground where I bowled well and got wickets. I suits my style of fast bowling and I did well last year when we played against Sri Lanka. It’s a fast pitch with some bounce, so I’m expecting the same kind of pitch here again this year,” said Gabriel.
The Windies pacer has so far captured five wickets in the two Tests so far and has recently climbed to No11 in the ICC Test rankings for bowlers.
The hosts lead the series 2-0 after emphatic victories at Barbados and Antigua and will be looking to make it three in a row against Joe Root’s England.
As the hosts search for another victory while England look to salvage some pride, we look at the key talking points heading into the third Test.
ENGLAND ON THE BRINK
Not since the mid-1980s have England been so completely outclassed by the West Indies on Caribbean shores. That was when the Caribbean side was still at its peak before going into freefall.
For the first time in 33 years, England face the prospect of a Test series whitewash in West Indies. Only eight times in history have England ever been whitewashed in a Test series with the most recent one coming against Australia in the 2013-14 Ashes Down Under.
Since the turn of the 21st century, England have suffered that ignominy on three occasions. Joe Root and his men will be desperate to not become the first English side to suffer that fate in the Caribbean since David Gower’s side were blanked 0-5 in 1986.
TOURISTS GRAPPLE WITH MULTIPLE INJURY CONCERNS
As if the daunting task of preventing a humiliating series whitewash isn’t enough, England also have injuries to some key players to worry about.
Ben Foakes and Chris Woakes were already struggling with injuries but the alarm bells were well and truly ringing for England on Thursday with Ben Stokes being forced to sit out of training with a bruised heel.
The star all-rounder has been one of England’s busiest bowlers in the series so far with only James Anderson sending down more overs than him in the two Tests so far.
The tourists still remain hopeful of Stokes’ participation in St. Lucia with the all-rounder set to undergo a late fitness test. Meanwhile, Woakes looks unlikely to feature in the final Test as he continues to recuperate from his knee injury while wicketkeeper Foakes remains a doubt with a bruised hand.
HOLDER-LESS WINDIES LOOK TO CHANGE ST.LUCIA RECORD
As West Indies seek to apply the finishing touches to what has been a fantastic series for them, they will have to do it without inspirational skipper Jason Holder.
The talismanic all-rounder was handed a one-match suspension for his side’s slow over-rate in the second Test and it will now be Kraigg Braithwate who leads the hosts at St. Lucia.
Holder has been key for the Caribbean side in the series with his stunning double ton in the first Test paving the way for a comfortable win. While he has average over 114 with the bat in the series, Holder has also picked up seven wickets with the ball with an average of less than 18.
The skipper’s absence will no doubt be felt by the hosts who have so far won only one of the six Tests they have played at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in St. Lucia.
The pitch at St. Lucia has traditionally been a batting paradise and as such, the hosts will have their work cut out if they want to enforce a result. However, they will be still confident of doing that job given the fact that their bowlers have bowled England out for under 200 in three of the four innings so far.