It was supposed to be the last time MS Dhoni was going to be captaining India, albeit in a practice match. The entry for the India A vs England XI game at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai was free-for-all, although not entirely for the reason that Dhoni was leading in his last match. But, those who were present would have been hoping for something special from MSD. He did produce a highly impressive innings, along with Ambati Rayudu and Yuvraj Singh. But, it wasn’t enough as England chased down 304, despite running into trouble midway through the chase.
Sam Billings was the star of the show for England as he eased his way to 93 from 85 balls with eight fours. After a good start, they stumbled to 112 for 3, before Billings led England’s fightback with the aid of Jos Buttler and Liam Dawson. Chris Woakes then put the finishing touches to the match with consecutive fours off the erratic Hardik Pandya. England’s chase meant a ton from Ambati Rayudu, looking to make a comeback, along with fifties from Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj and Dhoni went in vain.
Batting first, India lost Mandeep Singh for 8 from 24 balls. Dhawan and Rayudu then featured in a century stand for the second wicket. Dhawan was the second wicket to go, caught behind off Jake Ball for a sedate 63 from 84 balls, which included eight fours and a six. Yuvraj joined Rayudu next and the duo eased their way in a pleasant partnership, to take India well past the 200 mark. Rayudu strengthened his chances of an India comeback with 100 off 97 balls, with 11 fours and a six before retiring. It is another matter that he is out of the team despite performing well.
Speaking of comebacks, Yuvraj will be making one in the England series, and he celebrated the recall with a fluent 56 from 48 balls with six fours and two sixes. He was joined in the fun by Dhoni, who hit an unbeaten 68 from only 40 balls. Dhoni smashed eight fours and two sixes in his impressive knock. Chris Woakes went for 71 in his 10 overs and Jake Ball for 61. Adil Rashid was hit for 49 in his eight overs, as India posted 304 for 5.
England XI began their chase confidently as openers Jason Roy and Alex Hales added 95 for the first wicket inside 15 overs. Kuldeep Yadav however brought India A by first dismissing Hales for 40 and Roy for 62. Yuzvendra Chahal then had the big scalp of skipper Eoin Morgan for 12. At 112 for 3, India had the upper hand. However, Billings displayed his talented with a match-winning innings. He was aided by Buttler, who blasted 46 from 38 and Dawson who made 41 from 47. Kuldeep claimed five wickets for India, but it wasn’t enough as Ashish Nehra went for 50 in his six, and the others also proved to be rather expensive.
--By A Cricket Correspondent