Punch-drunk England seek crumbs of comfort
September 5, 2014
Start time 1030 local (0930 GMT)
Five Indian batsmen have 50-plus averages in this ODI series. Only one England batsman has a 30-plus average. Only one Indian bowler has conceded five runs an over in this series, and that man, Dhawal Kulkarni, has an economy rate of exactly 5.00. Every England bowler barring James Tredwell has been more expensive. India have bowled England out three times in three matches. England have taken 11 wickets in three matches.
If it still needs to be said, this has been a rout, and England are under all kinds of pressure to demonstrate that their one-day strategy can work, and that the personnel they have invested in can make it work. The three completed matches so far have given them precious few positives - it's hard to think of any apart from Tredwell's consistently tight bowling and Moeen Ali's sparkling 67 at Edgbaston - and they have one more match to try and redeem that situation.
If England were flattered by India's surrender in the Test series, the reverse has occurred in the ODIs. India came into the series with two major issues to fix. One, their death bowling, has gone untested so far thanks to England's batting failures. The second was their middle order. Since winning the Champions Trophy last year largely on the back of their top three, India have tried a number of combinations without finding definitive answers to the question of who will bat at four and five come the World Cup.
The three players who have auditioned for those roles in this series - Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu and Ajinkya Rahane - have all strengthened their claims, with Rahane's century at Edgbaston suggesting he is perhaps better suited to opening the batting in this format. Considering how easy India have had it, though, and considering how subcontinental the conditions have been through this series, it seems prudent to wait a little longer before saying they have found a blueprint for the World Cup.
Form guide(Completed matches, most recent first)
Watch out for
England's totals in this series so far have been 161, 227 and 206. Their batting is better than that, and they will surely run India much closer if Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler fire. They have averaged 23.33 and 18.33 in this series, respectively, and their failures have left England with barely any thrust in their middle order.
England's recent struggles against India's spinners in ODIs are best encapsulated by the fact that Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin are India's third and fourth-highest wicket-takers against England, and the fact that they also have the best strike rates among the top ten in that list. Jadeja needs three wickets to share the top spot with Harbhajan Singh. Can he do it in one match?
Ian Bell is out of the match with a broken toe, and England have not called for a replacement. He didn't play the previous game either, so it seems likely they will stick to the same top six that lined up at Edgbaston. The seam-bowling combination is harder to predict, however, since they have used five different fast bowlers over the course of this series, apart from James Anderson, and all of them have been expensive.
England (likely): 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Gary Ballance, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Steven Finn, 10 James Anderson, 11 Harry Gurney
A few players in India's squad haven't played a game yet, and the series is already won, but India tend not to tinker that much with their eleven even in dead rubbers. It seems unlikely, therefore, that Sanju Samson or Karn Sharma will get to make their debuts.
India (likely): 1 Ajinkya Rahane, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Dhawal Kulkarni, 11 Mohammed Shami
Pitch and weather
Three of the last five ODIs at Headingley have been abandoned without a ball bowled. This time around, the weather in Leeds should permit a full ODI, with the Met department forecasting a less than 5% chance of rain during the day. The pitch is expected to be flat, but the seamers could find some help if there is cloud cover. Though they took place a long time ago, the last two ODIs at this venue - England chased down 295 against Pakistan in 2010, and fell well short of Sri Lanka's 309 a year later - suggest batsmen will enjoy themselves.
Stats and trivia
- If India don't lose the match, it will be the third time they have gone undefeated in bilateral ODI series of four or more matches against England. The previous two instances were 5-0 wins, both at home, in 2008-09 and in 2011-12
- Ajinkya Rahane will reach 1000 ODI runs if he scores 54
Quotes"We are really happy the way we played our cricket in the last three ODIs, but the approach will remain the same. We will go in with the same intensity. We are not relaxed. We are just ready for the next ODI as we were ready for the last three games."
India have already won the series, but Ajinkya Rahane says England can expect no mercy
"We are playing for England, he's the captain and whatever he says we do. He's got all our backing and like any other game for England we're trying to do our best."
There has been plenty of pressure on Alastair Cook to step down from the ODI captaincy, but he has the full support of Moeen Ali
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo