India seek comfort in youth
September 8, The Oval
Start time 1300 (1200 GMT)
This has not been an Indian summer. In any sense. The grim September weather has dominated the start of the one-day series, washing out the opening match and chopping the second down to 23 overs a side. Added to the dank weather, injuries have robbed the numerous India supporters in the crowd the chance of seeing many of their World Cup heroes. It hardly sounds the recipe for a stirring contest, yet the injuries have allowed India a glimpse of the future. The only hope of pulling a positive or two from out of the wreckage of this tour is for some young talent to flourish. Also, though it feels unlikely, there is still the possibility of silverware at stake.
India's batting has been invigorated by coloured clothing. On his way to a blistering 19-ball 40 at the Rose Bowl, Suresh Raina was unrecognisable from the man who compiled a 42-ball pair in the final Test at The Oval. Parthiv Patel, meanwhile, has been Sehwag-esque at the top of the order in bullying England's new-ball bowlers off their plans. But the star has been Ajinkya Rahane.
He has made 155 runs from 130 balls in his three outings against England and more than the volume has been the quality of his stroke-making. Short balls have been pulled easily, full ones driven fluidly and his technique strong throughout. Short-form runs - as Raina proved this summer - are no guarantee of class but allied to Rahane's first-class average of 67.72, India fans have plenty reason for excitement.
The problem India has is with the ball. Praveen Kumar, despite an off-colour showing at the Rose Bowl, is reliable, as is Munaf Patel, but beyond that the ranks are thin. Varun Aaron was flown in to give India the pace they have lacked all summer but has so far served the drinks. The emphasis of this one-day series should now be a view to the future so it's a pity Aaron can't get a game.
Eoin Morgan's injury leaves England without their best one-day batsman but gives Ravi Bopara an opportunity to find his feet on the international stage he looks in danger of slipping off. The other player looking to establish himself is Ben Stokes. England's lower-order finishing was a major weakness at the World Cup and the management hope Stokes's crisp-hitting can solve the issue. As of yet, though, he hasn't had the chance.
Form guide(Most recent first)
In the spotlight
It was only a cameo - and it ended in frustratingly soft fashion - but at the Rose Bowl, Ian Bell showed why he deserves a berth in England's top order. It took Bell four years to crack Test cricket but he is fast-establishing himself as one of the classiest in the game and now has ODIs in his sights. In Southampton he struck four perfectly-timed fours to race to 25 without breaking sweat. Though he gave it away soon after a big score at The Oval wouldn't be a surprise.
Virat Kohli presence is one of the reasons India's fielding has been sharper in the one-dayers than during the Test series. Lively and bristling with confidence he has also bowled a few overs. But he's supposed to be one of the brightest batting talents in India and while Raina, Rahane and even Parthiv have all prospered at times this series, Kohli has been subdued. He'll hope The Oval will spark a turnaround.
If the weather proves as good as the forecasts suggest, there should be a 50-over contest at The Oval. England will bring Jonathan Trott back to No. 3, reopening the obligatory debate about his scoring-rate, and may leave out Samit Patel. Patel took five wickets in his last ODI appearance at The Oval in 2008 so has fond memories. If England prefer his spin option, Bopara could miss out.
England (possible) 1 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 2 Alastair Cook (capt), 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ian Bell, 5 Ravi Bopara, 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Tim Bresnan, 8 Graeme Swann, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Anderson, 11 Jade Dernbach
India's search for a fifth bowler means Ravindra Jadeja could come into the side ahead of one of the batsmen that played at the Rose Bowl, most likely Manoj Tiwary. Vinay Kumar could also miss out for RP Singh.
India (possible) 1 Ajinkya Rahane, 2 Parthiv Patel, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Munaf Patel, 11 RP Singh.
Pitch and conditions
The weather is set to be much improved at The Oval. 'Sunny intervals' and a temperature high of 23 degrees is sweet relief after the damp encounters in Durham and Southampton. None the less by the time evening draws in it will be cold in London. The Oval should prove a good pitch for the batsmen but evening dew is always something for the captains to consider.
Stats and trivia
- England have won four of their seven ODI games against India at The Oval but lost a high-scoring thriller the last times the teams met here in 2007.
- From that team in 2007 India have only two surviving players - MS Dhoni and Rahul Dravid.
- If England win at The Oval it will be their fifth successive victory in completed ODI games
"We've played some unbelievable cricket this summer, especially in the test matches, so we don't want the one day series to be a bit of a damp squib at the end. It's important we carry on the momentum, because we want all three forms of the game to be going in the right direction in the next few years."
Graeme Swann hopes to extend England's run of victories.
"I had done no preparations before coming here. But I learnt as I went along."
Ajinkya Rahane suggests he has no need for warm-ups.
Sahil Dutta is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo