Mumbai: Lokesh Rahul enhanced his case for inclusion in India's first Test XI with a composed half century, guiding Board President's XI past a difficult period on day one of the two-day practice game against visiting South Africa here.
India were all out for a modest 296 and South Africa were 46 for two at stumps. Watched by selector Syed Saba Karim, Rahul showed plenty of grit against the top class South African new ball attack before opening out to play some pleasing shots and make 72 in a stay of 292 minutes at the Brabourne Stadium.
Rahul, who struck 13 fours in 132 balls and stood up to the new ball well, steered BP XI out of the rut with a partnership of 105 runs for the third wicket with Karnataka teammate Karun Nair, who scored 44 in 108 minutes' stay.
Wicketkeeper Naman Ojha later feasted on the spinners while making 52 in 110 minutes with 7 fours and a six before he was dismissed by Dale Steyn for his third wicket when the fast bowler came back for his third spell, after tea.
Hardik Pandya (47) used the long handle later to smack 3 sixes and 6 fours before giving off spinner Simon Harmer the second of his three wickets for the innings and then Board XI were all out in 78.5 overs, just before the second new ball became due.
In the remaining time, the visiting openers Stiaan van Zyl (18) and Dean Elgar (18 not out) made a brisk start of 38 before the former was dismissed by Shardul Thakur.
Thakur then sent back night watchman Harmer (4) in the last over to leave the visitors at 46 for 2 at stumps. The Mumbai medium pacer finished with 2 for 28. In the morning, after opting to bat the home team plunged into trouble when opener Unmukt Chand poked at the fifth ball from Steyn that swung away and edged to the slip cordon.
Board XI captain Cheteshwar Pujara, also fighting to get into the final XI for the opening Test commencing at Mohali on November 5, was the next to go, edging the other new ball bowler, Vernon Philander, to gully for 5 after a stay of 23 minutes.
And when Shreyas Iyer was beaten for pace by Steyn to be caught behind for 9 by a diving wicketkeeper Dane Vilas, the innings was wobbling at 27 for 3 by the 9th over and Steyn's fiery first spell was a very impressive 5-1-13-2.
The dire situation called for some cautious approach against the potent pace battery of South Africa to survive and rebuild and Board XI found the men in Rahul and Nair to do the job.
The two, edging a few balls, saw off the two opening bowlers while exercising caution against Steyn, Phialander and the lanky Morne Morkel, who did not concede a run in his five overs bowled in two spells.