| New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming in action in Rajkot on Thursday. (AFP)
Rajkot: Mark Richardson sent India a warning signal ahead of next week’s first Test with an unbeaten 128 on Thursday as New Zealand made 299 for five on the opening day of their three-day tour match against India A.
The 32-year-old left-hander struck 18 fours and a six in his 304-ball knock on a lively wicket after captain Stephen Fleming elected to give his team some valuable batting practice.
Having been deprived of any action in last week’s tour opener at Visakhapatnam due to rain, New Zealand’s batsmen made a shaky start to the match in the hot, humid conditions.
Richardson kept one end occupied but the Black Caps were in all sorts of trouble at 91 for four when 20-year-old paceman Munaf Patel grabbed three wickets in quick succession on first-class debut.
Patel had Fleming (27) drag an away-swinger on to his stumps, then got Scott Styris caught by wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta for eight and dismissed Nathan Astle for a first-ball duck with a delivery that nipped in sharply after pitching on off-stump.
But Richardson and Craig McMillan steadied the innings with an 89-run stand for the fifth wicket before Jacob Oram struck a breezy unbeaten 59 off 78 balls with six fours and two towering sixes to put New Zealand in command.
Earlier, Patel’s fine spell helped India A restrict New Zealand to 175 for four off 54 overs at tea at the Corporation Stadium here. The visitors, who were coasting at 61 for one at lunch, lost three quick wickets after resumption and were in a spot of bother before Richardson and MacMillan got together.
Patel took three wickets conceding 17 runs in his third spell of five overs, which included the prize scalp of Fleming, who was the first to go after the break when he played on a Patel inswinger.
Fleming, who scored a quick 27 off 34 balls hitting four well timed fours and a six off left arm spinner Murali Kartik, added 47 for the second wicket with Richardson before getting out.
Styris hit Kartik for a six and looked in fine touch. He, however, went for his shots too early and snicked an easy catch to Dasgupta off Patel for eight.
Much was expected from Nathan Astle, but the stylish middle order batsman was dismissed leg before the next ball playing half cock to a good length delivery.
New Zealand had started cautiously as both Patel and Rudra Pratap Singh posed a few problems to openers Richardson and Lou Vincent with a steady line and length.