Leicestershire: R Vinay Kumar bowled fast, slow and smart to finish with a three-wicket haul that helped the Indians complete a hat-trick of wins in three warm-up matches in five days, providing a much-needed boost ahead of the lone Twenty20 international against England at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
After a series of cameos pushed the Indians to 161, Leicestershire started on a positive note and were 48 for 1 by the end of the Powerplay. But Suresh Raina, leading the visitors in the absence of a resting MS Dhoni, used his bowlers cleverly, rotating the trio of R Ashwin, Amit Mishra and Vinay to put the brakes on the chase. The hosts required 33 runs from the final two overs, but Ashwin and Vinay gave them no room to play their shots and conceded just 17 runs.
The fall of Joshua Cobb, hero of Leicestershire's triumph in the Friends Life t20 on Saturday, in the first over did not deter the tall pairing of Andrew McDonald and Will Jefferson. They had little trouble against Varun Aaron, regarded as India's fastest bowler, during his spell from the Bennett end. Aaron started off with a half volley which McDonald punched to the cover boundary. Aaron responded with a slower delivery, but the ball skimmed McDonald's pads for four leg byes. A ball later Aaron once again faltered with his line, swinging it too far down the leg side, allowing McDonald to easily glance another four.
Aaron's problems continued when he failed to intercept a straight drive from Jefferson at long-on, gifting Leicestershire a boundary. Aaron came back from the Pavilion end, but his misery was far from over. Jefferson hit the Indian seamer over long-off for a four and then McDonald lofted him over cover for a six that bounced onto Milligan Road. Aaron, a last-minute replacement for Ishant Sharma, had joined the Indian squad only two days ago. He was rusty but finished the over by firing in a short ball that beat McDonald for pace.
Against the spinners, Jefferson made use of his 6'10" height to try to kill the turn. In Mishra's first over he swatted the legspinner past long-on for a four and then lofted another boundary over mid-off. While trying to sweep Mishra, though, he was beaten by the flight and was trapped plumb lbw.
Raina shuffled his slow bowlers well and the spin pair of Mishra and Ashwin slowed down the Leicestershire train. Vinay chipped in as well, keeping a tight off-stump line and had James Taylor, who tried hitting across the line to an outswinger, caught behind. McDonald, a bit anxious to seize control, smashed Vinay for two fours but the bowler hit back by delivering a slower ball in his next over that beat McDonald's attempted slog and crashed into the stumps.
At that stage Leicestershire needed 78 from 52. With Abdul Razzaq walking in, the Leicestershire fans still kept the faith given his ability to destroy the best of bowling attacks. Razzaq started by crashing Rohit Sharma towards the straight boundary. When Praveen Kumar pitched short on the off stump, Razzaq came up with a tennis-like high forehand, forcing Praveen to take evasive action as the ball zipped to the left of his head, for a straight four.
But with Paul Nixon, playing his farewell match at Grace Road and in England, finding it hard to connect at the other end, the asking-rate was peaking. Leicestershire needed 59 from the last five overs but 14 runs including two savage uppercuts by Razzaq to the point boundary from Aaron's third over raised hopes. Next over he slogged Praveen over cow corner for another six.
Razzaq swept the first delivery of the penultimate over for a couple but perished trying to hit over deep square leg where he was caught by Virat Kohli. Leicestershire's challenge was virtually over and then Vinay gave just eight runs in the final over.
Like with their bowling, the Indians' batting also had several players making small but significant contributions. Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane started confidently, and though Parthiv rushed into his shots, desperate to make a quick impact, the fluency of Rahane caught the eye.
Rahane, a late replacement for Virender Sehwag, who had to return home after the Test series, rolled his wrists neatly to glance a full, inswinging delivery from Matthew Hoggard to the fine-leg boundary. When Razzaq bowled short he pulled him strongly for another four. Trying to rush into another short delivery, this time on the off stump, he could only steer into the hands of the short third-man.
Rahul Dravid ran hard during his near-run-a-ball 29 to keep the score ticking steadily before a late charge by Rohit, which included consecutive sixes off the medium pace of Wayne White, took India to a challenging total.