Tamil Diplomat

India A v England: Tourists start confidently with warm-up victory

Sam Billings’ 93 from 85 balls helped England to a three-wicket victory over India A, in MS Dhoni’s final game as captain of an Indian team.

Dhoni has stood down before the one-day series but signed off with a brutal 68 off 40 balls, as India A posted 304-5 from their 50 overs in Mumbai.

Jason Roy (62) and Alex Hales (40) got England off to a fast start, before Billings took them close to the target.

England face India A again on Thursday, before the ODI series begins on Sunday.

India are fielding two completely different XIs for the two warm-up matches, but both are full of international caps and quality.

After the early loss of Mandeep Singh (8), the hosts progressed steadily with experienced opener Shikhar Dhawan (63) putting on 111 with Ambati Rayudu.

Rayudu reached his century off 97 balls, before retiring to give veteran team-mates Dhoni and Yuvraj a chance at the crease.

Both men took advantage, as first Yuvraj (56) and then captain Dhoni accelerated to power India A above 300, with the latter taking 23 off the final over, delivered by Chris Woakes.

Seamers David Willey (2-55) and Jake Ball (2-61) were the only England wicket-takers.

Despite Dhoni’s fireworks, the score never looked enough to contain a formidable England batting line-up, although soft dismissals threatened to derail an otherwise straightforward chase.

Five men reached at least 40 – with Jos Buttler hitting 46 off 38 and Liam Dawson 41 off 47 – but it was Billings who played the crucial knock, hitting eight boundaries before being bowled seven shy of a deserved century by Hardik Pandya.

The tourists left Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow on the sidelines, rested after a taxing 2016, with Liam Plunkett nursing a calf injury and Joe Root yet to arriveafter the birth of his son.

The three-match ODI series will be followed by three Twenty20 matches, starting on 26 January.