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 went wrong early for the tourists who never got back on track.
Captain Alastair Cook arrived with 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. Chasing a revised target of 229, England’s middle-order collapsed in quick time and only Ian Bell showed the necessary resolve as his 91 coaxed the side to 175 all out.
Even Bellwas 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, as each of their top three made half-centuries, Murali Vijay top-scoring with an entertaining 76.
Jade Dernbach turned in two for 23 from his ten overs to emerge as the pick of the attack, while James Tredwell’s off-spin was tidy.
But 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 the next four batsmen fell like dominoes.
Morgan (four) and Jos Buttler (six) both fell to Jalaj Saxena’s off-spin. Craig Kieswetter was undone for a duck by a fine Mohit Sharma delivery and Ashok Meneria had Chris Woakes lbw for three. Bell, after surviving his chances, was attempting to keep his head at the other end and Tim Bresnan offered some respite with 22, including a big six.
Meneria ended his fun to make it 116 for seven and James Tredwell was close behind, run out for a duck. 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, much to the delight of a small but voluble crowd.
England took the field at 9.30am (4am GMT), but managed only five overs before the umpires took the players off for bad light. While respite from the cold was welcome in the field, the subsequent loss of overs did little for England’s preparations.
More than an hour was lost, and when play resumed, Abhinav Mukund and Vijay were on top. Bresnan suffered most initially, his first three overs costing 20. Vijay then went after Chris Woakes in the 17th, chipping him for three over the top and a clean six down the ground.
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 carried on the fight, lifting Tredwell for a straight six and a reverse-swept four.
He was out for 76, Patel rocking back his leg stump with a quicker delivery, but Meneria picked up the baton with successive maximums off the England all-rounder.
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.