© AFP

Sam Billings led England XI’s chase of 305 with an 85-ball 93. © AFP

Eoin Morgan & Co. got their limited-overs campaign in India off to a great start, beating the MS Dhoni-led India A by three wickets in their first 50-over warm up game at Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on Tuesday (January 10).

Sam Billings took charge of England XI’s chase of 305 with an 85-ball 93, with eight fours, as they went over the line in 48.5 overs after the Indians scored 304 for 5 after being asked to bat.

Though Kuldeep Yadav’s 5 for 60 made the visitors stutter at various points of the chase, useful contributions all through the order made Billings’s job easier.

Jason Roy (62 in 57 balls) and Alex Hales (40 in 37) put together 95 runs for the first wicket in 14.3 overs, then Jos Buttler contributed a 38-ball 46 from No. 5, while Liam Dawson scored 41 from 47 balls at No. 7.

Roy and Hales started aggressively, hitting 15 boundaries and three sixes between them before Hales fell caught by Sanju Samson off Kuldeep. Roy fell soon after, becoming Kuldeep’s second victim, and Morgan followed suit for a six-ball three, accounted for by Yuzvendra Chahal, and England suddenly looked out of it at 112 for 3 in 18 overs.

But Billings and Buttler then strung together a crucial fourth-wicket stand of 79 to bring the chase back on track. Buttler was in his usual attacking mode, hitting three boundaries and three sixes to shake off the jitters, and Billings rotated the strike to keep the scoreboard ticking over at a good pace.

The Indians bounced back with the wickets of Buttler and Moeen Ali, out for a duck, both falling to Kuldeep, but Billings and Dawson pulled things back quickly with a sixth-wicket stand of 99. The partnership helped England to 290 for 5 before Dawson returned a catch to Kuldeep in the 46th over for the chinaman bowler to complete his haul and Hardik Pandya went past Billings’s defence six balls later to keep the crowd interested right till the end.

But Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid batted sensibly to knock off the remaining runs to finish the task with seven balls remaining.

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MS Dhoni struck eight fours and two sixes to lift India A from a mediocre position to a competitive 304 for 5. © AFP

Earlier, Ambati Rayudu hit 100 in 97 balls with 11 fours and a six before retiring and Dhoni turned it on towards the close with a 40-ball 68 not out to help the Indians post a competitive total.

After Mandeep Singh, opening the batting, fell cheaply early on, Shikhar Dhawan and Rayudu shored up the innings. Dhawan went on to score 63 in 84 balls before nicking Jake Ball to Buttler behind the stumps, and Yuvraj Singh, making yet another comeback to international cricket, chipped in with a handy 56 off 48 balls.

The Indians were still behind the par score at that stage, but Dhoni, who recently stepped down as captain of the national limited-overs teams, smashed it around to earn his side some useful runs towards the end of the innings. Woakes went for 6, 4, 4, 2, 6 and 1 in the last over as Dhoni – who hit eight fours and two sixes – took his team past 300.

But, as it turned out, it wasn’t enough to keep the visitors from picking up a win and some much-needed confidence ahead of the three-match ODI series, which will be followed by three Twenty20 Internationals.

The two teams will lock horns for the second and final warm up encounter at the same venue on  Thursday.