Cornwall, Blackwood hit fifties but India A seize control

NORTH SOUND, Antigua, CMC – Rahkeem Cornwall signalled Test selectors with a counter-attacking half-century while out-of-favour batsman Jermaine Blackwood struck another but India A came away with the better of the exchanges on the opening day of the first four-day “Test” here yesterday.

Opting to bat first at the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium, West Indies A were dismissed for 228 in their first innings with Cornwall top-scoring with 59 and Blackwood getting 53.    Roston Chase chipped in with 25 and tail-ender Jomel Warrican, an unbeaten 21, as the hosts recovered from 97 for five to reach their eventual total.

West Indies A were undone by left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem who claimed five for 62 while leg-spinner Mayank Markande (2-40) and seamer Siraj Mohammed (2-61) supported with two wickets apiece.

In reply, India A reached the close at 70 for one with opener Priyank Panchal unbeaten on 31, having shared an opening stand of 61 with Easwaran Abhimanyu who made 28.

West Indies A suffered an early setback when they lost left-handed opener Jeremy Solozano for nine with the score on 11 in the day’s fifth over but Montcin Hodge (16) and captain Shamarh Brooks (12) steadied the innings with a 28-run stand.

Both fell within the space of 17 deliveries, however, leaving West Indies A on 47 for three and despite Blackwood’s attempts to inspire two partnerships, the hosts lost wickets steadily to be facing collapse.

Cornwall, though, arrived to lend support to Blackwood, the pair posting 98 for the sixth wicket to rescue the innings.

The 26-year-old Cornwall mixed caution with aggression, lashing seven fours and three sixes off 100 balls in just over one and three-quarter hours at the crease while Blackwood anchored the stand in a 116-ball knock in just under two and a half hours with six fours.

They were beginning to push India A onto the backfoot when both perished in the space of 14 deliveries.

First, Blackwood suffered a rush of blood, charged Nadeem, missed a wild swing and was easily stumped while Cornwall holed out to deep cover also off Nadeem, leaving West Indies A on 195 for six.

There was no recovery this time around as the last four wickets tumbled for 33 runs even though Warrican thumped two fours and a six in an attempt at gathering hasty runs.

India A were then given a solid start by Panchal who has struck two fours in a 69-ball knock and Abhimanyu, who counted four fours off 52 deliveries.

With the close beckoning, left-arm spinner Warrican broke the partnership when he had Abhimanyu caught low down at first slip by Cornwall.