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Glorious homecoming for Stevens

Darren Stevens

Darren Stevens led England Lions to a five-wicket win over India A in the Triangular Series by scoring 58 not out

Darren Stevens hit an unbeaten 58 at his old ground to help England Lions chalk up successive wins in the triangular series with a five-wicket victory against India A at Grace Road.

Stevens, who was born in Leicester and played for the county for seven years from 1997 until moving to Kent, put on an unbroken 90-run stand with room-mate Peter Trego to see the Lions home with 27 balls remaining.

Chasing 255 to win, Lions openers Andrew Gale, promoted up the order with Alastair Cook unable to lead the side due to a back injury, and Steven Davies gave the innings some early impetus with an entertaining stand worth 38 at better than a run a ball.

Both looked in fine touch with Davies unfurling some typically stylish drives and Gale launching Abhimanyu Mithun for a huge six over midwicket which prompted a spectator to blow hard on his vuvuzela.

But the pair soon fell in similar fashion, caught behind attempting loose drives off Dhawal Kulkarni as England Lions slipped to 47 for two in the eighth over.

Jonathan Trott, a centurion in Tuesday's win over West Indies A, seemed intent on another big score but having reached 22 he edged the lively Jaskaran Singh behind where Wriddhiman Saha took his third catch of the innings.

Like the three Lions who perished before him, Ian Bell was guilty of wasting a start. Successive boundaries off Manoj Tiwary - the second an audacious reverse sweep - suggested the Warwickshire man would lead the chase but he was visibly disgrunted after chipping the same bowler straight to cover.

At 114 for four there might have been a few jitters in the England Lions dressing room but Ravi Bopara soothed any nerves with a handful of silky boundaries.

However, after bossing a fifty partnership with Stevens, Bopara misjudged a sweep and was given out lbw to Tiwary.

Ravi Bopara

Ravi Bopara was the pick of England Lions' attack with 3-32 from his 10 overs at Leicester

Trego joined Stevens with the game in the balance - England Lions needing 90 from 19 overs - but the pair scampered between the wickets to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

The aggressive Trego in particular, was quick to capitalise on anything loose and two successive sixes in the 35th over bowled by Iqbal Abdulla pushed the Lions towards the finishing post.

Stevens, despite being struck on the foot, was calm and composed and brought up his fifty off 71 balls, with a sweetly timed drive over extra cover. That was only his third boundary and his fourth, a clip off the pads, sealed victory in the following over.

Earlier in the day, stand-in skipper Gale won the toss and elected to bowl first on a wicket that did not offer much to the new-ball pairing of Sajid Mahmood and Ajmal Shahzad.

The much-improved Mahmood rediscovered his accuracy after a mauling by West Indies A two days previously, but Shahzad was slightly wayward early-on and got punished by Abhinav Mukund who hit the Yorkshire bowler for successive boundaries to get the scoreboard moving.

Shikhar Dhawan clipped and drove boundaries off Liam Plunkett's first over as the India A openers rattled along at five an over in a 54-run stand.

Trego provided a much-needed breakthrough in the 11th over with just his second delivery, tempting Dhawan to drive to Gale who took an excellent catch tumbling forward.

The Lions did not have to wait long for another wicket as Plunkett soon found Ajinkya Rahane's outside edge with a leaping Davies completing the dismissal.

The wicket brought captain Cheteshwar Pujara to the crease. The elegant right-hander averages more than 60 in first-class cricket with a highest score of 302 not out, and he did not take long so show his pedigree with a delightful straight drive off Shahzad.

Cheteshwar Pujara

Cheteshwar Pujara launched the tourists to 254 with a fine 73, but his efforts were ultimately insufficient for India A to defend

The India A skipper took three boundaries from Trego but fortunately for England Lions none of his team-mates could hang around long enough to forge a substantial partnership.

Bopara, in a rich vein of form with the ball, tore the heart out of the batting line-up with three quick wickets as India A stuttered to 145 for five after 31 overs.

Mukund, who became bogged down, chipped straight to James Tredwell at cover, Manoj Tiwary then played on and Manish Pandey become Bopara's third victim when he lobbed a catch to Gale.

Wriddhiman Saha, who holds the squad's only Test cap, announced himself with a towering six off Tredwell, one of two maximums during an entertaining 35 which gave the innings more than a gentle nudge.

After a 69-run stand which took India A to 214 for five, the returning Shahzad picked up three wickets in 11 balls including a beauty to dismiss Pujara, who nicked a rising ball to Davies having made 73.

Mahmood collected the last two wickets in the final over to fall to finish with 2-37.

Stevens said: "This is fantastic - two wins out of two. It means everything to me.

"I was very surprised to be called up. I have always wanted to play for my country. Turning 34 I thought the chance had passed me by.

"I want to take this opportunity and win games for the Lions. I want to win this competition and if that leads to playing for England then brilliant."