| Ajit Agarkar in action against Central Districts at McLean Park in Napier Saturday. (AP/PTI)
Napier, Dec. 7 (PTI): Ajit Agarkar’s exploits with the ball were countered by a gutsy Bevan Griggs who posted an unbeaten maiden century to give Central Districts an 86-run first innings lead against India on a truncated second day of the warm-up match here Saturday.
Little known 24-year old Griggs, coming to bat at number six, drove the Indians up the wall in frustration as the visitors were in a position of strength at one stage having reduced the hosts to 153 for seven.
Agarkar claimed four wickets, including three in a five over spell, to help the visitors bounce back into the match before Griggs’ 100 not out put the brakes on the slide as Central Districts declared their first innings at 295 for nine.
On a day when bad light and rain twice forced an interruption, India declined to start their second innings in poor light in the final session after the umpires offered them the choice with 20-odd overs remaining to be bowled.
Agarkar led the charge in the morning session but the inability of the Indian bowlers to polish off the tail cost them dearly as Griggs added 142 runs with the late order batsmen Michael Mason, Brent Hefford and Lance Hamilton.
After adding 47 for the eighth wicket with Mason (21) and 37 with Hefford (9) for the ninth, Griggs put on an undefeated 58 runs with last man Hamilton (9 not out) as the Indians struggled to break Central Districts’ resistance in the post-lunch session.
Griggs was picked for the match only for his batting ability even though he is a recognised wicketkeeper. His form must have delighted national selectors who have delayed naming of the squad for the first Test next week because of the woeful form of their top batsmen including captain Stephen Fleming who fared poorly in a state game for Wellington.
Indians, on the other hand, must be disappointed by the form of their bowlers as they struggled in the afternoon on a wicket which increasingly got flatter. Left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra failed to impress as the swing bowler just could not find the right length to bowl in seaming conditions, either pitching it up too much or bowling too short, much to the batsman’s delight.
Griggs, who dominated the afternoon session completely, was also pleased to see Nehra being brought on to bowl just after Agarkar had struck twice in one over. “I was surprised because Agarkar was the pick of their bowlers who moved the ball well at a good pace and generally kept it low on the off-stump,” Griggs said.
Griggs reached his century off the second new ball with a streaky edge in the slips where a leaping V.V.S. Laxman at second slip could only touch it before it disappeared into the pickets.
Griggs, whose previous best in first class cricket was 76 against Northern Districts last year, said his heart was in his mouth when he saw Laxman leap up in the air and make a bid for the catch. “It wasn’t my intention to get the hundred this way and I am pretty sure Laxman got his fingers to the chance,” he said.
Griggs’ century came off 150 balls with the help of 11 fours and a mighty six over deep mid-wicket off Harbhajan Singh. “It took me some time to work out Harbhajan Singh who is really a world class bowler but the wicket got flatter as the day progressed,” said Griggs.
Earlier, resuming at the overnight score of 69 for one, the home side cruised along with half-centuries by captain Craig Spearman and Mathew Sinclair. Spearman stroked all around the park to bring his fifty in just 59 balls and before getting out for 58 — astonishingly caught on the follow through by Tinu Yohannan — he put on 92 for the second wicket with Sinclair (52).
Spearman’s dismissal started the rot as Glen Sulzberger (8) was caught low on his left by Laxman at third slip off Sanjay Bangar and Jamie How (8) departed leg before to Harbhajan Singh.
Agarkar, brought on to bowl after the first hour’s play, then took three wickets in just five overs, including two scalps in one over. He began with Sinclair’s wicket, caught by Harbhajan Singh at gully, having faced 84 balls with nine fours.