Mumbai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (68 n o, 40b, 8×4, 2×6) did all he could with the willow but England still gate-crashed his party by three wickets, leaving a packed house made up of loyal fans more heartbroken than the home team dressing room, in his last match as leader of an Indian side.
England gave themselves a much-needed boost by beating the Dhoni-led India A side in their first warm-up match ahead of the limited overs series.
Ambati Rayudu (100 retd hurt, 97b, 11×4, 1×6) top scored with a fine century, while Kuldeep Yadav (5/60) bowled with great heart but Dhoni was the cynosure of all eyes as he bludgeoned the England attack, reminding fans of his ‘fearless batting.’
However, Sam Billings (93, 85b, 8×4) held the England innings together and was ably-supported by openers Jason Roy (62, 57b, 9×4, 2×6) and Alex Hales (40, 37b, 6×4, 1×6). The two put on 95 runs in three balls shy of 15 overs before Billings took over. Even though Yadav had England on the mat by picking up the wickets of Jos Buttler (46, 38b, 3×4, 2×6) and Moeen Ali (0) in the space of three deliveries, Billings held firm.
Although Billings departed when 15 runs were needed, England completed the win in the 49th over when Chris Woakes (11 n o) struck Mohit Sharma for successive fours to take England to 307 for seven with seven balls to go.
Asked to bat first, Rayudu played the sheet-anchor role for the home side before retiring to the pavilion after his century to pave the way for Dhoni to entertain the big crowd.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan (63, 84b, 8×4) and Yuvraj Singh (56, 48b, 6×4, 2×6), recalled to the ODI and T20 squads to play against the visitors, made attacking half centuries to warm-up nicely for the battles ahead.
Dhoni finished the home team innings on a high note by smacking England’s Woakes for 23 runs in the final over, carting the fast bowler for two sixes and as many fours.
But then the match was overshadowed by the frenzy of the fans for Dhoni. A fan at the ground ran on to the field to fall flat at Dhoni’s feet, and when the skipper told him not to step on the pitch, he obliged by jumping over. He was escorted out of the playing area by the police and then taken out of the stadium. The overwhelmed man stumbled his way out, constantly turning back to catch a glimpse of his hero. “No further action was taken,” Cricket Club of India sources said.
Whoever the batsman at the crease, the crowd was just cheering for Dhoni and was keen to have the glimpse of their favourite leader for one last time. Suddenly Sachin’s (Tendulkar) city had become MSD’s.
Press Trust of India
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