New challenges for both teams
Match factsNovember 14, 2008
Start time 9.00am (0330 GMT)
Big PictureBoth teams have barely had a chance to catch their breath in the lead-up to the opening match of this ODI series. England have been traversing the globe in search of riches only to come away empty-handed, while India have been taking on the best team in the world and have come away with the spoils. There is no doubt where the momentum lies at the start of this contest, especially after England folded for 98 against a Mumbai XI that was no more than a 2nd XI side.
Making the early running in a series condensed to 19 days will be vital. As England found in 2006 when they lost 5-1 it's very difficult to turn around a poor start. Despite their dodgy preparation, Rajkot may just offer them a chance. India will still be on a high after beating Australia, but the Test series was played at a very different pace to the cricket that can be expected over the next few weeks. The home side have brought in a few new faces and those who remain from the Tests will have to quickly adjust their mindsets to 50-over cricket. Amazingly, given the dominance of the one-day game in India, it will be their first home ODI since last November.
Although it seems a long time ago now, England's recent 50-over form is outstanding after they thrashed South Africa 4-0 at home. The return of Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison has been vital, but England will need their entire side firing if they are to overcome India on their own turf.
Form guide (last 5 ODIs, most recent last)India WWNWL
Watch out for
Andrew Flintoff He is eager to make up for lost time after finally overcoming his ankle problems and his impact on the England side was clear when he returned against South Africa in the summer. A century in the opening warm-up match last week - his first in any cricket since the 2005 Ashes - was a promising sign as his position at No. 5 is crucial to the one-day team. His bowling has always been a banker, and the ability to find bounce and reverse swing on docile surfaces is a vital weapon in England's attack.
James Anderson The new ball doesn't swing for very long in India, so it's important to make the most of it. Anderson has developed into a consistent performer in all forms, marrying sharp, late swing with decent pace. He has played England's last 40 ODIs and is finally taking on the mantle as the attack leader. Also one of the team's best outfielders with a bullet arm.
Yuvraj Singh Currently out of the Test line-up, but a senior figure in the limited-overs team. His recent form has been patchy and the selectors' patience is once tunning a little thin. However, England know how dangerous he can be and Stuart Broad is still waiting for some of those six sixes he was hit for at the World Twenty20 to land. He remains one of the best fielders in India.
Harbhajan Singh One of the most combative players around, Harbhajan will relish his battle with England's middle order. It will be a vital contest. The visitors have regularly struggled against quality spin in one-day cricket and they won't be able to afford to drift during Harbhajan's 10 overs.
Team newsIshant Sharma has been rested after picking up a niggle against Australia, so his absence opens the door for Munaf Patel. The batting line-up gives a glimpse into India's future, with one of the middle-order trio set to replace Sourav Ganguly in the Test side. India will wait until the morning to confirm their XI, and the final decision revolves around the No. 7 spot.
India (possible) Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt, wk), Virat Kohli/Yusuf Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh, RP Singh
England, too, are missing a strike bowler with Ryan Sidebottom still unavailable, but are boosted by Stuart Broad's recovery from a knee problem. They have opted to play just the one frontline spinner in Samit Patel, so Graeme Swann is again on the sidelines, while Ravi Bopara has been recalled in place of Luke Wright. Much attention will be focused on the opening partnership between Ian Bell and Matt Prior because the subcontinent is one place where the Powerplay overs must he taken advantage of.
England 1 Ian Bell, 2 Matt Prior (wk), 3 Owais Shah, 4 Kevin Pietersen (capt), 5 Andrew Flintoff, 6 Paul Collingwood, 7 Samit Patel, 8 Ravi Bopara, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Steve Harmison, 11 James Anderson
Pitch & conditionsThe pitch is soft and unlikely to break-up with curator Dhiraj Parsana saying it should offer something for everyone, with the quick bowlers looking to take advantage of the early start. "We have left some grass on it and there would be some sweating under the covers before the 9am start," he said. "It would be good for the stroke-makers too as more shots can be played on the back foot rather than when they are forced to play on the front foot on wickets that afford only knee-high bounce."
Stats & Trivia
"I haven't got a clue what happened because I was batting at the time. I heard something was going on but I was concentrating on my batting. I don't think too much needs to be read into it - if a guy is practising his shots, he's practising his shots, so there's nothing to read into it."
Kevin Pietersen plays down an incident during training where a ball from the India nets almost hit Andy Flower
"If we lose a few games, we shouldn't be feeling so low. We will win some and lose some but we will always have to be positive frame of mind."
Mahendra Singh Dhoni says that's India's mindset should be the most important factor even when results don't go their way. The fans are unlikely to believe the same.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo