Uneasy start for struggling England

WINTER WORKOUT: Liam Plunkett will next week head to Australia to spend time at the Darren Lehmann Academy

WINTER WORKOUT: Liam Plunkett will next week head to Australia to spend time at the Darren Lehmann Academy

First published in Sport

ENGLAND’S preparations for the one-day series in India went from bad to worse as they slipped to a second warm-up defeat in three days.

Having been turned over by India A on Sunday, Alastair Cook’s side suffered a sixwicket defeat to Delhi, who had nine balls in hand, despite posting a formidable 294 for five.

Ian Bell was the standout once again, adding 108 to his previous 91, but there will be major concerns over the performance of the bowlers.

They appeared to have plenty to defend but were dismantled by former international Shikhar Dhawan, who hit a classy 110, and rookie Milind Kumar, who finished 78 not out in only his sixth List A appearance.

Runs for Bell, Eoin Morgan (52) Cook (44) and Craig Kieswetter (41no) mean it was not a completely negative exercise, but there was a listless feel to their attack that must be rectified before Friday’s meeting with India in Rajkot.

For their part, Delhi timed their chase expertly, with Kumar seeing the side home alongside Rajat Bhatia (45no).

Delhi signalled their intentions to chase hard from the off, India Under-19 captain Unmukt Chand taking on Steven Finn and winning.

He was dropped early after top-edging a short ball but did the bulk of the damage as Finn’s first five overs went for 32.

Jade Dernbach sent down three overs for seven at the other end, only to see his economy rate spoiled when Dhawan lofted him for six.

Chris Woakes and Samit Patel could not stem the tide, Dhawan hitting the latter’s first delivery for four and then flashing Woakes over extracover on his way to a swift 50.

After posting 98 without loss, James Tredwell struck twice in quick succession to peg the hosts back.

Chand was first down, chipping softly to mid-on for 37 and Jagrit Anand (four) was close behind. Dhawan continued by pulling Stuart Meaker for a powerful six and at the halfway stage the hosts were well on track at 140 for two.

New man Kumar lifted Tredwell for another maximum and Dhawan eased past 90 with a whip through midwicket.

England thought they had him caught behind on 96 but the umpire disagreed and Dhawan made the most of his chance by hoisting Tredwell into the stands to bring up his hundred in style.

His charge ended when the unlikely figure of Joe Root trapped him lbw, opening the door for England.

Cook restored his openers to the action and Dernbach promptly bowled Vaibhav Rawal for two.

Kumar was proving harder to shift as he passed his previous best of 31 with a series of confident blows and made 50 in 65 deliveries.

Delhi required 75 from the last ten overs and that became 30 off five as the chase went serenely.

Both men tucked into Woakes, Kumar belted Meaker over the ropes at extracover and finished things with a neat cut for four to leave England beaten again.

Bell’s innings began quietly as he was comfortably outscored by Cook.

The captain looked in good touch from the moment he hit a pair of boundaries in the fourth over and had 44 of England’s 70 runs by the time he was bowled by Sumeet Narwal in the 16th over.

One glorious shot over extra-cover aside, Bell played a conservative game of accumulation in the first half of the innings.

There was uncertainty at the other end, though, Joe Root (10) and Patel (13) both playing unconvincingly before falling to Varun Sood’s left-arm spin.

Bell was keeping his concentration, though, even telling the umpires Delhi had too many fielders outside the ring and earning England a no-ball.

He brought up his 50 with a rare show of extravagance, swiping Rajat Bhatia for six, and England were 135 for three after 30 overs having found a confident partner in Morgan.

Bell survived a stumping chance on 60 and Morgan was dropped on 23 but it was to be a profitable stand.

Morgan launched Ashish Nehra for the first of two sixes and Bell picked off Sood for successive boundaries before a nudged single brought up his hundred.

Bell eventually fell for 108, Sood claiming a third wicket, while Morgan departed just after passing 50.

Craig Kieswetter ended the innings emphatically, getting some valuable time in the middle and making 41 in 27 balls, including sixes off the last two balls of the innings.

As he walked off, England must have felt they were on the way to a comfortable victory but Delhi’s batsmen had their own ideas.

Tredwell is prepared for plenty of hard work Friday.

After securing a memorable Test series win before Christmas, the tourists’ preparations for the five-match ODI series have been some way short of expectations.

Tredwell, deputising for the rested Graeme Swann, has performed admirably as lead spinner but acknowledges England need to improve before they meet India in Rajkot.

‘‘It’s obviously not been ideal. We like to go in and win these games but we’ve not hit our skills in the way we’d have liked,’’ he said.

‘‘We need to make some improvements in the next couple of days. We didn’t hit our lengths consistently enough to build pressure over periods of time. That’s what it boils down to.

‘‘To be able to turn it around in the next couple of days going into the first ODI is crucial.

‘‘We all have massive pride in our performances so when things don’t go to plan it’s disappointing.

We can build on that disappointment and put it right going into the first game.’’ England have been whitewashed in their last two oneday series in India and backto- back defeats in the tour matches have done little to raise hopes of an improvement.

Tredwell has cautioned against placing too much emphasis on the warm-up fixtures though.

‘‘The result is irrelevant, it doesn’t mean a great deal in the scheme of things but we’d like to have come out with some better performances.’’

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