Ruthless England in quest of series win
It's been three years since England won a one-day series at home but the current batch, eager to put a seal on the trophy tomorrow, appear to be headed in just the right direction. It was against India that England last triumphed in a home one-day rubber, back in September 2004, but this unit seems genuinely capable of a one-day renaissance. It's early days yet but the signs shouldn't go unnoticed.
Paul Collingwood is leading a young side that's winning. Every member of this squad is likely to last till the next World Cup, something that doesn't hold true with other international sides. Collingwood is the only member of the side who is above 30, yet he's arguably the fittest of the lot.
The youngest two members carried them to victory at Old Trafford. A few months back they couldn't win a game, now they seem to possess all the riches. As if winning the series wasn't good enough, England want to win the rest of the games. They're talking of playing their best cricket from now on and have mentioned the word "ruthless" too often for comfort. Collingwood is talking of "miles to go". Such greed.
"To win three games so far is a good achievement but we've done nothing yet," said Collingwood. "We've got one more game to win but we want to win the last three. I've said from the start as long as we are moving forward as a team I'm happy. But you always want to win. It would mean a lot for the confidence of the team, going forward into the Twenty20 [World Championship] and on to Sri Lanka."
Both teams are sweating over injury concerns to fast bowlers - Andrew Flintoff and Zaheer Khan are doubtful starters - who could be crucial in conditions which are likely to favour them. The weather is mostly chilly, with a stiff breeze blowing across the ground, and given the 10.15 am start, the early overcast conditions could play a part in the compositions of the side and the decision at the toss. If Dravid wins this one too, like he is done in his previous seven, there could be some serious investigation. He's losing games but defying probability.
India must be feeling like a football side that's two goals down with a man sent off. Zaheer is unlikely to play, while his replacement, Munaf Patel, hasn't hit full fitness. The law of averages suggests Ajit Agarkar will have a bad game - he's had a good game just two days ago, remember - and RP Singh is on the wane. Dravid spoke about having their backs to the wall. It's actually more like guns to their foreheads.
A picture in the Headingley Long Room captures three of Yorkshire's greatest batsman. There's Herbert Sutcliffe, smiling eagerly from a wheelchair, flanked by Len Hutton and Geoffrey Boycott, kneeling on either side. They traverse three generations. Sutcliffe was born in 1894, Hutton in 1916 and Boycott in 1940. Between them they total 57 Test hundreds and 19,640 Test runs. Their feats at the first-class level were simply colossal.
There's another batsman, who also turned out for Yorkshire, whose feats surpass those of the trio. Sachin Tendulkar, who was Yorkshire's first overseas pro back in 1992, returns to his English home. Four fifties in the last seven games point to his current form but it's here and now, with India needing to win, that he'd want to stamp his authority.
His opening partner, Sourav Ganguly was unwell and missed the practice session but is expected to walk out for his 300th one-dayer tomorrow. The two, the most prolific pair in one-day history, have 50 fifty-plus stands between them and a solid start, especially in demanding conditions, will be essential to get India away.
Once they drew level at Bristol, India spoke about a five-match series. Now they can look forward to a three-match contest and if they end up losing the next two there's always a one-off slug-out waiting for them at Lord's.
England (likely) 1 Matt Prior (wk), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Ian Bell, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood (capt), 6 Owais Shah, 7 Ravi Bopara, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Chris Tremlett, 10 Monty Panesar, 11 James Anderson.
India (likely) 1 Sachin Tendulkar, 2 Sourav Ganguly, 3 Rahul Dravid (capt), 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Ajit Agarkar, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Ramesh Powar, 10 RP Singh, 11 Munaf Patel.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo