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Tie ruins Bell's dapper appearance

Ian Bell

Ian Bell speeds to a fluent century as England Lions amassed a daunting total on an exceptionally high-scoring day at New Road

Ian Bell's majestic 158 was the highlight of a thrilling tie where India A scrambled a bye off the final delivery to secure a place in the final of the triangular series.

After Bell led England Lions to a seemingly unbeatable 343 for eight, India A, knowing a win would book a spot in Thursday's final, batted with the sort of carefree abandon you would expect of a side drinking in the last chance saloon.

The dangerous Shikhar Dhawan provided some early momentum by striking eight powerful boundaries, but the chase was anchored by fellow opener Abhinav Mukund.

The aggressive left-hander, who has scored a triple-century in first-class cricket, gave his side a chance of an unlikely win with a beautifully-crafted century.

However, England Lions looked favourites for a fourth straight win when Ravi Bopara bowled him for 114 to leave India A requiring 94 from 69 balls with six wickets in hand.

Losing their centurion did little to deter the Indians, however, with Manoj Tiwary and Wriddhiman Saha hitting crucial boundaries to keep their side up with the run-rate.

Liam Plunkett did his best to stifle the flow of runs by removing Tiwary, Manish Pandey and Jaskaran Singh in quick succession - the second of which was a perfectly executed leg-stump yorker as the Durham bowler finished with excellent figures of 4-58.

That meant India A required 12 off the final over to be bowled by Bopara.

The Essex all-rounder kept his composure and conceded just five off three balls but Iqbal Abdulla blasted a boundary through midwicket to leave three runs needed from two balls.

There was more drama when Bopara then ran out Abdulla, chasing down a mistimed heave to throw to Steven Davies as the batsmen attempted an optimistic second.

Abhinav Mukhund

Abhinav Mukund gives India A hope of overhauling England Lions' 343 for eight - a score they matched - with a fine 114

With two runs to win, Bopara slipped a yorker beneath Abhimanyu Mithun's swinging bat but the ball eluded Davies allowing the jubilant Indians to scamper a run.

Earlier in the day Bell's typically elegant 158, his highest one-day score, had put England Lions into a position of authority helped by Darren Stevens and Davies, who scored contrasting half-centuries.

With Alastair Cook still troubled by a back injury and stand-in captain Andrew Gale rested, Bell became the third player to lead the England Lions in four matches.

After winning the toss, the new skipper found himself in the middle as early as the fourth over when Jonathan Trott, promoted to open, lost his off stump in spectacular fashion. Imagine Shaun Tait rattling Andrew Strauss' off peg at Lord's last Saturday, but 15mph slower.

It would be India's only moment of note in the field as Bell and Davies sucked the life out of the bowling attack with a 107-run stand which took just 17 overs to compile.

Davies, who had threatened a score all series, was all wrists and grace in his rapid half-century while Bell, in lifting Abdulla on top of the Graeme Hick Pavilion, showed he could mix beauty and beast when necessary.

After Davies departed lbw for 54 at better than a run-a-ball, Stevens, something of a revelation since his surprise inclusion, laid into the bowling with relish.

Driving sweetly and sweeping at every opportunity, the 34-year-old Kent batsman chalked up a second fifty the series as he and Bell put on a mammoth 154-run partnership.

Their merry fun ended when Stevens drilled a catch straight to long-on where Dhawan completed a carbon copy to dismiss Bopara four overs later.

The effortless Bell, meanwhile, sauntered on, passing 150 from just 138 deliveries but he perished as a double hundred was coming into view, well caught by India A captain Cheteshwar Pujara who clung on to a steepler.

Lions batsmen came and went in the frantic rush for late runs but one kept his head, James Taylor, and his beaverish 24 at the death seemed to have wrapped up a fourth straight win.