Mahendra Singh Dhoni did all he could with the willow but England still gatecrashed 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 top-scored with a fine century, while Kuldeep Yadav returned a five-wicket haul but Dhoni was the cynosure of all eyes as he bludgeoned his way to an unbeaten 68 off 40 balls, albeit in a losing cause.
A fan at Brabourne runs on to the field to fall at Dhoni’s feet. Dhoni tells him not to step on the pitch & he obliges by jumping over. pic.twitter.com/KjiO6ZLauL— ScoopWhoop News (@scoopwhoopnews) January 10, 2017
England had enough in reserves to edge out India A and deny Dhoni what would have been a fitting win in his captaincy swansong.
Chinaman bowler Yadav sent England, who chased the home side’s challenging score of 304 for five, scurrying for cover but Sam Billings made 93 to push the tourists close to the victory target in the first of two practice games.
Although Billings departed when 15 runs were needed, England completed the win in the 49th over when Chris Woakes (11 not out) struck Mohit Sharma for successive fours to take England to 307 for 7.
Apart from Billings, who hit eight fours in his 85-ball innings before being dismissed by Hardik Pandya in the 47th over, openers Jason Roy (62), Alex Hales (40), Jos Buttler (46) and Liam Dawson (41) made important contributions.
Yadav 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 Stadium.
Asked to bat first, Rayudu played the sheet-anchor role for the home side before retiring to the pavilion after scoring exactly 100 to pave the way for Dhoni to entertain the big crowd.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan, coming off an injury lay-off, and Yuvraj Singh, recalled to the ODI and T20 squads to play against the visitors, made attacking half centuries by making 63 and 56 respectively to warm up nicely for the battles ahead.
Dhoni finished the home team innings on a high note by smacking England’s Woakes for 24 runs in the final over, carting the fast bowler for two sixes and as many fours.
The Dhoni ‘special’, which helped the total breach the 300 mark, started off with an imperious flicked six over square leg that brought up the wicketkeeper’s 50 off just 35 balls.
The huge crowd was given the full worth of their journey to the stadium and free entry by Dhoni’s pyrotechnics. It all happened only because Rayudu retired after compiling his century in 97 balls with one six and 11 fours.
The earlier part of the innings was dominated by Dhawan, the recalled Yuvraj, and their partnerships with Rayudu, who has not been included in either the ODI or T20 team.