England XI 177 for 8 (Root 48, Willey 3-35, Rashid 2-33) beat MCA XI 163 for 6 (Bista 51, Vince 45) by 14 runs
Joe Root hits down the ground during his 48 © Getty Images
The venerable Cricket Club of India has its very own “Men’s Siesta Room”, situated on the second floor of the Brabourne Stadium pavilion, and available from the hours of 12pm to 6pm to those members who could do with a lie-down. Like most of the décor in and around the grand old ground, its very existence harks back to an era of pankhawalas and chhota peg, when it was safe to take your eyes off the action and not miss a single beat.
On paper, England’s final World T20 warm-up match against a Mumbai Cricket Association XI was the sort of occasion that could have led to standing room only in the Siesta Room. Many’s the time that England have simply muddled through the motions in such contests, rotating their squad, settling for time in the middle, and moving onto the main event with minimum fuss.
Times, however, have changed very quickly, and England’s final 40 overs of middle practice proved urgent and captivating. In the end, a Mumbai XI reinforced with four donations from the England squad ran their visitors close before succumbing to a 14-run defeat, the contest effectively sealed by a brace of yorkers from Chris Jordan to bowl two of England’s floor-crossers, James Vince and Jos Buttler in consecutive overs.
Up until that point, England had been somewhat up against it. Jay Bista, a talented 20-year-old local boy who last week struck his maiden first-class hundred, launched Mumbai’s pursuit of 178 with a 37-ball 51, before Vince, with a measured 45 from 38, and Buttler, with a typically aggressive 25 from 16, manoeuvred their adopted team close with a 47-run stand in five overs.
England did not help their cause with their fielding – both men were badly dropped in the deep by Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes respectively – but England dredged the necessary composure to close out the contest, Jordan serving up a diet of yorkers at the death, not least in an exemplary penultimate over that went for just two runs.
“He’s been fantastic,” said Joe Root, whose 48 from 34 balls was the bedrock of England’s efforts with the bat. “He’s proven on a few occasions he can perform under real pressure. Now it’s about doing it consistently and when it really counts. The best thing is we’ve got these experiences to call upon when the tournament starts, so fingers crossed we can take that confidence forward.”
For all that Eoin Morgan has encouraged his England team to embrace their “naivety” in Indian conditions, there’s a subtle difference between the sort of have-a-go fearlessness that he is advocating and willful ignorance of the challenges that lie in store. And with that in mind, England have made as much capital as they could have hoped from their two practice contests.
West Indies on Wednesday will be another challenge entirely. “They are extremely explosive,” said Root. “They have firepower in the batting order, and are unpredictable at times, so we have got to have lots of plans in place to counter that”.
However, the ongoing success of Adil Rashid as a middle-order handbrake augurs well for England’s chances of launching their campaign in style. In transferring both Buttler and Rashid to their opponents, England created a situation in which their two likeliest matchwinners could test themselves against the best that England could offer, and vice versa. It proved to be a qualified success.
After batting first in a pre-arranged situation, Jason Roy and Alex Hales had biffed England along to 69 in the seventh over – neither perhaps hitting top form but nevertheless finding the gaps to rattle the scoreboard along – when Rashid started with the sort of splash that he has become something of a trademark since his stint with Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash.
He snared both men in the space of his first ten balls – Roy got himself in a tangle on the reverse sweep and chipped to short third man, before Hales was beaten in flight and jabbed a high looping chance back to the bowler. With flight, guile and spin both ways, Rashid conceded just 17 runs in his first three overs before Root, with the impish acceleration for which he is building his own reputation, planted his front foot to slam two sixes in a final over that went for 16.
“Hopefully everyone got lots out of it,” said Root. “Personally I know I did, it’s always good to face someone like Rash, who’s got the ability to spin the ball both ways. There will be times when we have to make sure we can face that in the tournament. He’s a very skilful bowler and it’s great to get an opportunity to face someone like that in a match situation instead of just in the nets.”
David Willey, the fourth of England’s exports to the Mumbai team, belatedly reminded the selectors of his merits with an improbable hat-trick as England shipped five wickets in the final 11 balls of their innings. After a first-ball lbw appeal against Roy that might have been tighter in a more competitive game, Willey came in for some tap in the opening three overs of his spell, only to turn his figures upside down with the consecutive scalps of Root, Moeen Ali and Jordan, who launched the final ball of the innings inside out over cover, but picked out Bista, lurking in the deep.
“Out preparation has been very good,” said Root. “In all the training sessions, the lads have worked extremely hard, and when it’s come to the games, the guys have stepped up and performed under pressure, which is exactly what we need to do.”
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo