England struggling to stay afloat in series
October 20, Mohali
Start time 1430 (0900 GMT)
As Rudyard Kipling once put it: "East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet." The contemptuous dominance that England enjoyed in their home Test series against India is now being reprised in reverse in their one-day tour against the same opponents.
England's opening two ODIs in Hyderabad and Delhi resulted in two crushing defeats, and unless they can stop the rot at the third time of asking in Mohali, they will have squandered the series with two games to play. It's hard to envisage any such transformation taking place, however. With one victory in their last 15 ODIs in India - and none since April 2006 - England have been in this position before, and have yet to work out an escape route.
India are a much-changed team from the outfit that won the World Cup back in April, but in their first home campaign since that momentous achievement, they have tapped into the same well of confidence. England faced trial by spin in the first game, and trial by seam in the second, and while their batsmen faltered on each occasion, India's have gone from strength to strength.
From MS Dhoni's blistering assault in the final 16 overs of the first match, to Virat Kohli's crushing double-century partnership with Gautam Gambhir in the second, the defining feature of India's performances to date has been the fluidity of their run-scoring. Whereas England's innings have been staccato at best, with occasional boundary shots punctuated by long periods of failed strike rotation, India's ability to create gaps in the field has been nigh on impossible to match, and even harder to stop.
In that regard, the absence of Eoin Morgan has been critical for England. His nominal replacement, Jonny Bairstow, hits a long ball given half a chance, as demonstrated on debut at Cardiff last month, but he has yet to learn the versatility required to dominate on Indian pitches. He's not alone in that regard. Craig Kieswetter has managed one boundary and seven runs in 13 balls so far, and while Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott have looked at ease in the conditions when they've got in, neither man has been able to put pedal to metal in the manner of their India counterparts.
England's problems extend to their bowling attack as well. Steven Finn and Tim Bresnan have impressed in an individual capacity, even though their figures hardly reflect their efforts, but Jade Dernbach's variations have been collared, while Samit Patel has struggled as a spin-bowling allrounder. Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin and even Kohli's leg-rollers have all proven more effective. It will take a considerable swing in fortunes for England to prove greater than the sum of India's parts in the coming contests.
(completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
There was no love lost between England's bowlers and Virat Kohli in Delhi, but seeing as he butchered them with a sublime 89-ball hundred, there was only one winner of that particular skirmish. Whatever technical suspicions were aired on the England tour, they were nowhere to be seen as he filleted the gaps in the field with aplomb, and he further confirmed his prowess on home soil with five nagging overs of unhittable medium pace. At the age of 22, he is seizing his chance to become the flag-bearer of India's new generation.
Jade Dernbach is a remarkable bowler for England to have in their ranks - a genuinely innovative seamer with an arsenal of variation to call upon, and time on his side to fine-tune his repertoire. When he gets it right, as he did with a looping slower ball to pin Gautam Gambhir lbw in Hyderabad, he can bamboozle the best players; however, when his variations are clocked, the joke is invariably on him - and so far in this campaign, he has one wicket at 99.00 in 16 overs. As Shane Warne once said of young legspin bowlers, he needs a lot of love to build the confidence upon which his skills will be pinned, but he's not getting it on this most torrid of tours to date.
Pitch and conditions
One of the most northerly venues in India, the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium has traditionally offered something to the seamers, although on the evidence of the second ODI, it is India's pairing of Praveen Kumar and Vinay Kumar who are better placed to exploit whatever is on offer.
No change was necessary the hosts in Delhi despite the conditions being markedly different, and so more of the same can be expected in Mohali. It makes quite a contrast to the recent tour of England, on which casualties abounded.
India (probable): 1 Parthiv Patel, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Vinay Kumar, 11 Umesh Yadav
Patel's place is under scrutiny following two poor bowling performances in the opening two games. Chris Woakes, one of his likelier replacements, has been ruled out of the tour through injury. His replacement is Graham Onions, although the legspinner Scott Borthwick is arguably first in line for a call-up. Despite being at 30s and 40s in Delhi, England may yet resist the temptation to tinker with the batting, with Ian Bell once again set to wait his turn.
England (probable): 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ravi Bopara, 6 Jonny Bairstow, 7 Tim Bresnan, 8 Graeme Swann, 9 Scott Borthwick, 10 Steven Finn, 11 Jade Dernbach
Stats and trivia
- India have a chequered history in ODIs at Mohali - they have won six and lost four of their ten games at the venue since 1993.
- However, Mohali retains a significant place in the nation's affections, given the result of the last game it hosted in March 2011: the victorious World Cup semi-final against Pakistan.
"The challenge for me is to get the players in the right frame of mind. We will have some scars when we get to Mohali, but we'll have to deal with them."
Alastair Cook faces up to his toughest test as England captain
"The youngsters are stepping up, and coming up with the performances needed at international level - both with ball and bat."
MS Dhoni is delighted with the development of a new-look India team
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo