England v India, 7th ODI, Lord's September 7, 2007

Expect some loud thunder

Will he? Won't he? It's been the question of the summer © Getty Images

The final lap of a most exciting summer's cricket is set up perfectly with a packed house at Lord's expected to witness a mouth-watering decider. The longest bilateral one-day series in this country has already produced some of the most gripping cricket in recent memory and there are few more appetising thoughts than a grand finale.

It might be far-fetched to expect a repeat of the dramatic scenes at The Oval but, considering the ebbs and flows of the series, don't rule out lightning striking twice. India were all but out of the series at Old Trafford, staring at a 1-3 deficit, but a refreshingly fearless approach allowed them to claw back. It's the end of a long summer but don't expect either team to let up on intensity.

In what has been a recurring theme in the series, England continue to ponder over the talismanic Andrew Flintoff. He played a pivotal role in two of England's wins and has, without a doubt, been the most threatening bowler all series. His batting form has seen a dip but his very presence seems to lift the side no end. Will he? Won't he? It's been the question of the summer.

England would be desperate for him to play in what is expected to be a high-scoring showdown. Owais Shah, who's maiden century was lost amid the euphoric celebrations at The Oval, has suggested that 330 may be a safe score on this pitch. Rahul Dravid chimed in with a "you never know" and the groundsman, Mick Hunt, felt there would be a "bit of swing".

England's batting line-up has looked in fine fettle all series, especially with the dangerous Luke Wright making such a sparkling entry in the previous match. Alastair Cook, who began the series with a fine hundred, hasn't found his stride since and Kevin Pietersen will hope to carry on the form he found in the previous match.

Lord's provides an ideal occasion for Pietersen to stand up. It's an instance where England have no option but win and he's usually come good in similar situations in the past. Some batsmen need a one-point focus to bring out the best, flowering in high-profile clashes, and Pietersen is one who wouldn't want to miss out on a challenge such as this one.

India may be tempted to stick with the same combination that stormed them to victory at The Oval, Ajit Agarkar's insipid showing notwithstanding. Sourav Ganguly, with his probing medium-pace, has come in handy as the part-time seamer and Dravid acknowledged that he might just be filling the vital piece in the jigsaw. "When you enter a game with two spinners, the third seamer, Sourav, being able to bowl in Powerplay becomes really important. Then it allows you to hold back your spinners a little bit."

India approached the previous two games with nothing to lose, going out there and expressing themselves freely. Now they are faced with a situation where victory is nearby. Dravid warned against complacency but admitted that the team had come some distance since the shattering scenes at Old Trafford. "I knew we really had to fight hard. We had our backs to the wall," said Dravid. "We had to script a really good comeback.

"Even after being 1-3 down, I felt that the games were really close. A wicket here and there and the scoreline could have been so different. We have played well in the last couple of games and had the rub of the green. It has been a good comeback for us in the series. If we can win tomorrow it will be great comeback." Good or great? A most-awaited encounter will provide the answer.


England (likely): 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Matt Prior (wk), 3 Ian Bell, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood (capt), 6 Owais Shah, 7 Andrew Flintoff, 8 Luke Wright, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Anderson, 11 Monty Panesar.

India (likely): 1 Sourav Ganguly, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Rahul Dravid (capt), 6 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), 7 Robin Uthappa, 8 Ajit Agarkar, 9 Piyush Chawla, 10 Ramesh Powar, 11 Zaheer Khan.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo