Bell and Abhinav tons script high-scoring tie
England Lions 343 for 8 (Bell 158, Stevens 64) tied with India A 343 for 8 (Abhinav 114, Tiwary 46, Plunkett 4-58)
A tie was just as good as a win for India A as they qualified for the tri-series final in a freakish run-fest at New Road, with both teams locked on 343. India were a point behind West Indies A and needed at least a tie to get the two points to ensure qualification, and they didn't give up till the last ball. Ian Bell's 158 carried England Lions to what seemed like an unassailable 343, but the Indian batsmen, led by Abhinav Mukund, always ensured that they were in the game.
The Lions innings was built around two century partnerships at the top of the order, both driven by Bell. The wicketkeeper Steve Davies added 107 with him for the second wicket, contributing 54 off 52 balls. Iqbal Abdulla, the left-arm seamer, got India the breakthrough when he trapped Davies lbw. It was only temporary relief for India as Darren Stevens joined Bell to script the highest partnership of the innings. The pair added a further 154 off nearly 22 overs to push the Lions towards a massive score. Stevens made 64 off 61 balls before he was dismissed by Abhimanyu Mithun, with the score at 267 in the 42nd over.
Bell reached his century off 117 balls, but his next 50 came off just 21. He hit 20 fours and a six before he was dismissed by the seamer Jaskaran Singh for 158 off 143 balls. All the frontline bowlers got smashed, with the exception of Abdulla, who took 2 for 56.
It was hard work for the Lions bowlers as well, as the Indian openers added 79 in quick time. Shikhar Dhawan made a brisk 44 off 26 balls before he was dismissed by Liam Plunkett. Ajinkya Rahane then joined Abhinav for a steady stand of 74 to keep their side in the contest. Abhinav then added 41 with Cheteshwar Pujara and 56 with Manoj Tiwary before he was dismissed for 114, bowled by Ravi Bopara. The well-set Abhinav's presence meant that India were always in with a chance.
Fortunately for India, the lower order didn't disappoint after Abhinav departed. Tiwary blazed 46 off 36 balls and when he was out, Wriddhiman Saha took over. Saha added 38 in quick time with Manish Pandey to take India closer. However, a double-strike by Plunkett tilted the game towards the Lions but Saha wasn't giving up without a fight. Abdulla's last-ditch cameo of 13 off just five balls swung it back India's way. There was further drama off the penultimate ball as Abdulla was run-out after taking a single. India needed two to win and one to tie but they stole a bye to level the scores and seal their place in the final, also against the Lions, on Thursday.