England make poor start to ODI tour
England suffered a humbling start to 2013 as some below-par batting saw them slump to a 53-run defeat at the hands of India A in Delhi.
The fixture, one of two warm-ups ahead of the one-day series against India, looked a modest assignment on paper but things began to go wrong early for the tourists and never got back on track. Captain Alastair Cook arrived suffering from a cold and withdrew from the game after plummeting temperatures and low-lying fog forced a delay to the start.
Stand-in skipper Eoin Morgan inserted the hosts, who went on to make 224 for four in a reduced 39-over innings. What followed as England chased a revised target of 229 was not good enough, with the middle-order collapsing in quick time and only Ian Bell showing the necessary resolve as his 91 coaxed the side to 175 all out.
Even Bell, England's best batsman on the day by a distance, was dropped twice - on 16 and 35 - meaning the scale of defeat could have been even greater.
India A had earlier batted with few problems despite the grimly cold conditions. Each of their top three made half-centuries, Murali Vijay top-scoring with an entertaining 76. Jade Dernbach turned in two for 23 to emerge as the pick of the attack, while James Tredwell's off-spin was tidy.
England's innings was a different matter. Kevin Pietersen, back for the first time since reversing his one-day retirement, made a lively 19, including three fours off a single Sreesanth over before he miscued to mid-on. Samit Patel was promoted to number three as Cook's absence forced a reshuffle, but he made just four before Ishwar Pandey had him pinned lbw.
That left England 42 for two, which became 72 for six as Morgan, Jos Buttler, Craig Kieswetter and Chris Woakes fell like dominoes. Bell, after surviving his chances, was attempting to keep his head at the other end and Tim Bresnan offered some respite with 22. Meneria ended his fun to make it 116 for seven and James Tredwell was then run out.
Bell opened his shoulders as the end came closer, striking several clean hits and picking up a pair of sixes before he went for one shot too many and top-edged Sharma to the wicketkeeper. He was nine short of his century but at least had the match practice his team-mates were denied. Steven Finn was last man out as the hosts wrapped up victory.
Earlier, more than an hour was lost due to bad light and when play resumed India's openers Abhinav Mukund and Vijay were on top. Both batsman passed 50 looking relatively untroubled, with 106 on the board at the end of the 20th over.
Tredwell eventually struck for England with the score at 118, Mukund stumped for 57. Vijay was gone for 76, Patel rocking back his leg stump with a quicker delivery. Dernbach dismissed Meneria and Jalaj, just reward for some disciplined bowling, though Kedar Jadhav managed 52 not out as he shepherded the total along to a winning position.