India A vs England talking points: From Ajinkya Rahane's doughty knock to visitors' spineless spin attack

A solid top order performance coupled with disciplined bowling by the spinners helped India A overpower England in the second warm-up match at the Brabourne stadium on Thursday. Electing to bat first, England rode on half-centuries by Alex Hales (51 off 53), Jonny Bairstow (64 off 65) and crucial lower order contributions by Adil Rashid (39 off 42) and David Willey (38 off 30) to post 282 on the board.

Ajinkya Rahane bats during a warm up match against England in Mumbai. AP

Ajinkya Rahane bats during a warm-up match against England in Mumbai. AP

Chasing the target, captain Ajinkya Rahane and Sheldon Jackson (59 off 56) provided the hosts a solid platform with a 119-run stand. Rahane (91 off 83) missed out on a ton on his comeback from injury but Rishabh Pant (59 off 36 balls), along with Suresh Raina (45 off 34), played a breezy knock to help India A cruise to victory with 62 balls to spare. Here are the key takeaways from the second warm-up match which, incidentally, witnessed a decent turnout:

1. Shahbaz Nadeem, Parvez Rasool spin a web

England got off to a decent start with the openers Jason Roy and Hales adding 42 for the first wicket, and after Roy's departure – in bizarre fashion with his helmet protector dropping on the stumps after he was hit on the helmet by a Pradeep Sangwan bouncer – Hales and Bairstow added 74 runs off 12 overs.

India A needed a wicket at that point and it was provided by left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem, who had Hales caught at mid-wicket in the 17th over. The ball seemed to stop on Hales who ended up chipping it to Rahane. India A managed to break England's momentum from that moment. And Nadeem, along with Parvez Rasool, asphyxiated the England batsmen in the middle overs to restrict the scoring rate. Both the spinners varied the pace really well and foxed the batsmen predominantly with their flight which was evident from the fact that two batsmen were caught and bowled - Nadeem had England captain Eoin Morgan and Rasool had Jos Buttler. Ben stokes too was done in by Rasool's flight as he mistimed a lofted shot to long off.

It seemed as if Nadeem and Rasool had carried forward the Ranji Trophy momentum into this match. Nadeem was the highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy this season with 56 wickets and became just the second player in the history of the tournament to take 50-plus wickets in a season twice, having taken 51 in 2015-16.

Rasool, on the other hand, emerged as one of the best all-rounders with 629 runs and 38 wickets. The Jammu and Kashmir all-rounder finished with brilliant figures of 10-1-38-3 and Nadeem ended with 10-0-41-2 at the Brabourne stadium.

While Nadeem was disappointed to miss out on selection for limited-overs matches against England, Rasool hoped to attract the selectors' attention with his performance in this warm-up match. A decent performance against an international side would have surely pushed the duo's cases further.

2. Eoin Morgan misses out again

England limited-overs captain Morgan missed out for the second match on the trot. The intruder who burst onto the field in Mahendra Singh Dhoni's farewell match as 'India' captain on Tuesday might have spent more time on the pitch than Morgan who got out for a 'golden duck' at the Brabourne on Thursday.

Morgan has been going through a tough phase of late having copped a lot of criticism from certain sections of the English media for withdrawing from the Bangladesh tour owing to security concerns. The inconsistent form hasn't helped his cause. He hadn't played for England since September last season and had mediocre averages of 29.81 in ODIs and 21.87 in T20s in 2016.

He, however, looked in good touch in the Big Bash League (BBL) this season and played a match-winning knock of 71 off 50 balls playing for Sydney Thunder against Melbourne Stars, including a last-ball six to clinch a thriller. He averaged 39.75 with a strike rate of 125.19 in the tournament with two half-centuries. But again, he has failed to click in the two practice matches at the Brabourne.

In the last match, he was caught brilliantly at first slip by Shikhar Dhawan off a reverse sweep in an innings which lasted just six balls for three runs and on Thursday, he was done in by Nadeem's flight, to depart off the first ball. Morgan hasn't had a good time in India especially in the ODIs with just 101 runs from six innings at 20.20. England would hope the warm-up matches would serve as a wake up call for the captain who would be looking to achieve much-needed consistency.

3. Rahane releases the pressure valve

There is hardly a moment where Rahane is not under scrutiny. There has always been a debate about his batting position, much-talked about strike rate and the rotation of strike. There is always pressure on the Mumbai batsman whether it be Tests, ODIs or T20Is. A below average performance in the Test series against England didn't help and to add insult to injury, a blow to his finger kept him out of what could have been his maiden home appearance, against England, at the Wankhede.

He then lost his place in the T20 side for the England series, and with strong competition for opening and middle order positions in ODIs and his mediocre form in 2016, when he averaged 35.5 at a strike rate of 83.52, there were calls questioning his place in the ODI side. The fact that Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh scored fifties in the first warm-up match wouldn't have helped Rahane's cause.

However, making his comeback after injury, Rahane – captaining the India A side – seems to have released the pressure valve with a half century on Thursday. There were no signs of rustiness as he played a fluent knock. The 28-year-old opened his boundary account with a trademark straight drive off David Willey and then followed it up with another powerful drive through mid-off.

That set the tone and, along with Jackson, he added 119 for the first wicket. Rahane's confidence grew with every shot as he followed lovely drives up with muscular slashes and effortless lofts along with a sensible rotation of strike. He brought up his fifty off 45 balls. Rahane used his feet to good effect against the spinners and paced his innings well. However, he missed out on his century as he was cleaned up by Willey trying to flick a full ball. With 91 off 83, with nine fours and one six, he had, however, set the platform for a comprehensive win. This innings would have given him enough confidence and helped him stake a claim for a place in the ODI side.

4. Rishabh Pant sizzles

Pant is the holder of the fastest century in Ranji Trophy history. He is only the third youngest Indian to score a first-class triple century and fourth youngest overall. He is the holder of the fastest U-19 fifty. He just scored 972 runs at 81 in the Ranji Trophy and achieved a maiden call-up to the India side for the T20s against England.

Pant is the talk of the town at the moment. The flamboyant southpaw, an understudy to Dhoni, is touted as one of the most exciting prospects in Indian cricket. The Delhi boy showed glimpses of the destruction he can inflict as he hammered a 36-ball 59 on Thursday.

A couple of days ago, he had battered a Canara Bank bowling line-up to score 84 off 34 balls, with nine fours and six sixes, in the ongoing DY Patil tournament to help his team Reliance 1 chase down 120 in 10.2 overs.

At the Brabourne, Pant walked in at 119/1 in the 19th over. One would have expected him to try to stabilise the innings with Rahane after the fall of Jackson's wicket, but what does he do? He charges down on the first ball itself and looks to loft Moeen Ali over extra cover, but misses and gets hit on the body. He then gets beaten twice but that doesn't deter his confidence one bit as he sweeps one powerfully behind square-leg to open his boundary account. He then toys with Liam Plunkett's bowling, thumping one over mid-off by charging down the track and lofting the next one over mid-on for consecutive fours.

The next bowler on his radar is Rashid. Morgan brings back the leg-spinner and Pant cracks a back foot punch through cover-point for a four on the first ball, followed by a pick-up shot over mid-wicket for another one. The 19-year-old then goes berserk in the 27th over as he rips Jake Ball apart with three fours and a six off the first four balls of the over to bring up his fifty off just 32 balls. A couple of pulls, one through fine leg and another over mid-on, were followed by an upper cut and a heave over mid-wicket for a six.

He continues the assault in the next over with another six over mid-wicket off Rashid, but departed of the next ball as he pulled a short one straight to wide long-on. Fifty-nine runs off 36 balls with eight fours and two sixes had a decent crowd at the Brabourne well-entertained.

5. England's spineless spin attack

One of the major differences between India and England in the Test series was the gulf in class of the spinners of the two sides. Discipline, coupled with attacking instinct, was what separated the two sides. Even without Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja the story seems to be the same.

The visitors don't seem to have learnt from their mistakes in the Test series. Their spinners have been largely ineffective in the two warm-up matches. In the first match, their spinners (Moeen, Rashid and Liam Dawson) went wicketless, while their Indian counterparts picked up six.

On a pitch that didn't assist much turn in the second match, the India A spinners combined to pick up five wickets while the visitors' spin attack managed just two. Moeen and Rashid didn't get their lengths right. They bowled too short or too full and got punished by an aggressive batting line-up.

India's spin attack had figures of 21-1-85-5 at an economy rate of 4.04. The figures of England's spin attack, on the other hand, read 14-0-97-2, at an economy rate of 6.92. England's batting will be their biggest strength going into the limited-overs series but a decent support from the spinners - who need to up the ante big time - would be crucial for their chances.

Published Date: Jan 12, 2017 19:53 PM | Updated Date: Jan 12, 2017 20:30 PM

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