IPL superstar Rishabh Pant steered India to a five-wicket victory over England Lions in the final of the A-team Tri-Series at the Kia Oval.
Pant made an unbeaten 64 from 62 balls as Rahul Dravid’s tourists reached a target of 265 with 10 balls to spare.
Warwickshire’s Sam Hain hit the only century of the match, his third in eight List A innings for the Lions, and Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone made 83 from 82 balls in a third-wicket stand of 152 after the Lions had been put in.
But they lost momentum in the later stages of the innings against some skilful bowling by Indian seam trio Deepak Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed and Shardul Thakor.
And despite tight bowling performances from Liam Dawson and captain Steven Mullaney, India always had the chase under control, with useful contributions from Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyar before Pant guided them home in an unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 71 with Krunal Pandya, who hit the winning boundary.
India’s seamers had made early inroads after Shreyas Iyar won the toss and chose to bowl on a hot morning. Chahar, who will now join India’s squad for the Vitality IT20 series, had Tom Kohler-Cadmore miscuing a pull, then Axar Patel took an excellent catch at backward point to dismiss Nick Gubbins in Khaleel’s first over.
But the Lions recovered impressively from 33 for two, as Livingstone joined Hain to add 152 for the third wicket.
Hain was the first to 50, from 68 balls, but Livingstone overtook him and hit a total of five sixes – including two in consecutive balls off Chahar.
It was another fine catch from Patel that finally broke their stand, this time at deep mid wicket to dismiss Livingstone for 83 from 82 balls off the bowling of Pandya, the all-rounder who has also received a late call to join the senior T20 squad this week.
The Lions lost their way badly after that, with only Mullaney of the remaining seven batsmen making it to double figures as they lost six wickets for 48.
Ben Foakes was brilliantly caught by his opposing wicketkeeper Pant off the bowling of Thakur, and Khaleel then returned to dismiss Mullaney and Dawson in consecutive overs.
Hain edged Chahar to Pant shortly after completing his century, and all India’s seamers showed impressive skill in the closing overs as wickets continued to fall regularly.
Prithvi Shaw and Agarwal then provided a bright start to the reply with a stand of 39 inside seven overs, until Shaw steered Matthew Fisher’s first ball to Gubbins at backward point.
Dawson, who had already claimed three four-wicket hauls in his previous four appearances in the tournament, then threatened another match-turning performance when he dismissed Shubman Gill and Agarwal in consecutive overs, to leave the Indians wobbling slightly on 83 for three.
But Vihari joined Iyas in a sensible fourth-wicket stand of 68. Iyas was dismissed by his opposing captain Mullaney for 44 courtesy of a sharp leg-side catch by Foakes, and Vihari was run out by a sharp piece of work by Hain – leaving the left-handers Pant and Pandya to do the rest.
Mullaney earned one for 37 from his 10 overs and Dawson ended with two for 37 from nine, giving him 14 wickets in the series, and lifting him level with the former Lancashire and England fast bowler Sajid Mahmood as the record wicket-takers in List A cricket for the Lions or the England A and B teams who preceded them, with 33 each – 14 more than their closest challengers.
India A now switch to four-day mode for the rest of their tour, including another fixture against the Lions at Blackfinch New Road in Worcester from July 16-19 – although both teams will have amended squads for that match, with the Lions’ selection to be announced in the next week.