Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Billings’ 93 helps England hunt down 305

Sam Billings gears up for a reverse sweep, India A v England XI, Mumbai.

MUMBAI: Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh scored half-centuries, and the relatively less-heralded Ambati Rayudu scored a hundred. But, the magic the crowd thirsted for had to be conjured by the man they had assembled in large numbers for at the Brabourne Stadium. MS Dhoni was in a mood to oblige and belted out a crackling assortment of his show-stopping strokes on the way to an unbeaten 40-ball 68. This was billed as Dhoni’s last match as captain of an Indian side, and his knock was meant to be the appetizer to a victorious sign-off. England, and in particular Sam Billings (93 off 85 balls), however, were determined to hijack the plot. A strong start, a rickety middle-phase engineered by India’s spinners and a nervy finish ensued, and at the end, England sneaked to their first victory of the tour in a game they looked to win in a canter. England’s chase of 305 got the impetus it needed at the top to insure against any collapses later on. Alex Hales and Jason Roy rattled along to 95 at more than six runs an over. Roy set the template for the innings in the first delivery of the innings – a full, inswinging delivery from Ashish Nehra was driven straight down the ground for four. Four balls later, he drove a similar delivery through the covers. Whenever the bowlers compensated by pitching it short, Roy and Hales leant back to punish.

Hardik Pandya conceded 16 just from his first five overs. As has been the case for the most part of Dhoni’s limited-overs captaincy, he leant on his spinners for control. After Kuldeep Yadav struck with his third delivery – Hales slapped a short delivery to cover – he went on to prise out Roy, who attempted to slog a wrong-un and top-edged a catch to deep midwicket. Yuzvendra Chahal had up to that point leaked 24 runs in three overs, but caught a break when captain Eoin Morgan reverse-swept him to first slip where Dhawan pouched a one-handed stunner. Buttler and Billings, though, revived the chase with a 79-run stand for the fourth wicket. For the most part, they either swept or stepped out of the crease to negate the flight and turn. Kuldeep, however, halted their progress with another double-strike in the 31st over – Buttler hit one to Mohit Sharma at long off and three balls later Moeen Ali was lbw after having missed a sweep. England were rescued by another robust partnership of 99 runs as Billings and Liam Dawson (41 off 47) took them within striking distance. Despite their dismissals late in the piece, England had little trouble going over the line.

BRIEF SCORES: England 307 for 7 (Billings 93, Roy 64, Kuldeep 5-60) beat India 304 for 5 (Rayudu 100 retd out, Dhoni 68*) by three wickets.

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