Patel lays down early claim for England Test spot

Samit Patel has put himself in the frame for a Test batting spot again but still wonders at Alastair Cook’s powers of concentration and the “oomph” Kevin Pietersen gives England.

All three made notable contributions on day two of their tour of India, Cook’s unbeaten 112 the most substantial and Pietersen’s frenetic 23 the most eye-catching.

Patel’s 82 not out, however, was perhaps the most significant with a view to team selection for the first Test in Ahmedabad on November 15 – Cook’s first as permanent captain, and Pietersen’s first since his controversial fall-out with management last summer.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Cook and Patel’s unbroken stand of 153 took England to 286-4, in reply to India A’s 369 all out, after Jonathan Trott (56) had shared a stand of 95 with the captain on the middle day of a match likely to end in a draw at the Brabourne Stadium today.

Patel’s performance strengthens his prospects of returning to the Test team as a batting all-rounder, in conditions which make his left-arm spin a valuable commodity.

“It’s obviously great to get a good start in the first game and a good score – I feel great,” he said.

“But there’s still a lot of work do do and two (warm-up) games left, so I haven’t got that position yet.

“I’m getting better, and the more games I play the better I’ll be.”

The 27-year-old inevitably found himself speaking about Cook and Pietersen, too.

“I thought Cooky played out of his skin. To bat all day is a great effort. Chef’s character and work ethic is outstanding, and it shows in his batting.

“One of our things is to grind and grind and grind and work hard as a unit and keep India in the dirt...”

Patel is less than a month older than Cook, so has seen the opener’s qualities at close quarters from early in their respective representative careers.

“Who would ever doubt Alastair Cook?” he asked. “Determination and honesty sums up his cricket really, and I’m thrilled to bits for him.”

Pietersen, by contrast, sought to dominate throughout his short innings, and was dismissed trying to continue that trend – sending a return catch to his old adversary Yuvraj Singh.

“I think Kev started off his innings amazingly,” said Patel. “That shows the character of the person and the player he is.

“It’s fantastic to have him as a member of the team. I think we need that out here – a bit of oomph to get us going.

“KP does it outstandingly well, and we’re glad to have him back.

“He looks in fantastic nick... shame he got out, but it’s just the way it goes.”

Pietersen can expect to face Yuvraj plenty more times this winter, it turns out.

India A captain Suresh Raina confirmed his pre-determined plan to bring the slow left-armer on early in Pietersen’s innings, and that Mahendra Singh Dhoni will have the same idea once the Test series starts.

All-rounder Yuvraj has had his previous successes against England’s mercurial middle-order batsman, but the two have become friends, too.

“Kevin came to the dressing room afterwards, and they laughed about it,” said Raina.

On this occasion, one had more to smile about than the other.

Cook’s only blemish was an escape on 87 when he edged an attempted cut at Yuvraj and was dropped by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.

The only memorable frill from the stoic opener came in the 90s when he leaned on an expertly-placed on-drive off Yuvraj for his 12th boundary before completing his hundred off Suresh Raina with familiar under-statement via a single to mid-off.

Pietersen was in and out, by comparison, in the blink of an eye. Batting for his adopted country for the first time since he was dropped for the Lord’s Test, he hit a six over long-off and three fours in a near run-a-ball innings.

Raina was the man hit for six, and duly replaced himself with Yuvraj – infamously dubbed a “pie-chucker” by Pietersen on England’s last Test trip here four years ago.

Yuvraj, continuing his comeback in the world game after recovering from lung cancer, had the last laugh on Pietersen this time when he moved smartly to his left to take a return catch.

Yuvraj was all smiles again soon afterwards when Ian Bell edged him to slip, leaving Cook and Patel with much work to do.

England had lost their first wicket with just two on the board when Nick Compton endured a false start to his international career with a third-ball duck.

Compton, grandson of the great Denis, is being pencilled in by many as the likely replacement for the retired Andrew Strauss as Cook’s opening partner.

But he will first need a substantial innings or two under his belt before the opening Test in Ahmedabad on November 15 – and here, he got no such thing.

Trott’s 50 contained nine fours but he uncharacteristically lost concentration and was bowled by Rainato, setting the stage for the Pietersen show.

James Anderson had earlier done his best to hasten that moment, too, giving England the perfect start when he had R Vinay Kumar lbw with an inswinger first ball to end the home innings without addition.

England fast bowler Steven Finn will play no further part in the game because of a thigh strain.