The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 11 , 2017

Sam steals show after Rayudu & Dhoni excel

- Have come with a fresh mind: Billings

Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the Brabourne Stadium

Calcutta/Mumbai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni did all he could with the bat and his captaincy, but England managed to prevail in this warm-up tie by three wickets to leave the sizeable turnout at the Brabourne heartbroken on Tuesday.

England rode Sam Billings's 93 and opener Jason Roy's 62 to give themselves a much-needed boost by beating the Dhoni-led India A side ahead of the ODI series.

"It was a good start. We just want to win every game we play... Good start to what hopefully will be a good tour," Billings said after the match.

For India A, Ambati Rayudu top-scored with a fine century, while Kuldeep Yadav returned a five-wicket haul. But Dhoni was the cynosure as he bludgeoned his way to an unbeaten 68 off 40 balls that powered the home team to 304 for five after they were put in to bat.

But no matter what, Dhoni continues to be a rage as far as the fans are concerned. Towards the end of the India A innings, an overenthusiastic fan breached security to run on to the field and touch Dhoni's feet, and when the skipper told him not to step on the pitch, he obliged by jumping over. The fan was then escorted out of the playing area by the police before being taken out of the stadium. The overwhelmed man stumbled his way out, constantly turning back to catch a glimpse of Dhoni.

"No further action was taken," Cricket Club of India sources said later.

Left-arm spinner Yadav sent England scurrying for cover, but Billings and Jos Buttler stitched two vital partnerships - 79 runs for the fourth wicket with Jos Buttler and 99 for the sixth with Liam Dawson - as the visitors reached home with seven balls to spare.

"We have come in with a fresh mind, with many of the guys coming from Australia (from the BBL). We have also played some fantastic one-day cricket in the past one year," Billings added.

"The IPL massively helped me out, playing wrist-spin and spin in general. Once you get comfortable with these conditions, you can express yourself," the middle-order batsman said about batting in Indian conditions.

For India A, Kuldeep was the pick of the home team bowlers with five for 60, but the others disappointed and the fielding was also below par on a good batting track at the Brabourne.

Earlier, Rayudu played the sheet-anchor role for India A before retiring to the pavilion having scored exactly a 100 to pave the way for Dhoni to entertain the crowd.

Opener Shikhar Dhawan, coming off an injury lay-off, and Yuvraj Singh, recalled to the ODI and T20I squads, made attacking half-centuries by making 63 and 56 respectively to warm up nicely for the battles ahead.Dhoni finished the India A innings on a high note by smacking Chris Woakes for 23 in the final over, carting the fast bowler for two sixes and as many fours.

"Dhoni is a living legend. I was just watching him, even today he seemed emotionless... As cool as ever... The best part about him is that he keeps things simple," Rayudu said.

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