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November 16, 2008
Match factsNov 17, 2008
Unless England arrest their alarming slide, which began in Antigua, continued in Mumbai, and plunged to new depths in Rajkot, they are in danger of being steamrolled by Mahendra Singh Dhoni's clinical outfit. The positive for England is that, after the 158-run loss in the first one-dayer, it will be relatively easier for them to improve, while India will be challenged to reproduce a performance as devastating as the one in Rajkot.
Touring sides face several tests in India. The common ones are difficulties in adjusting to the climate, the environment outside hotels, and the playing conditions - several Australian cricketers, for instance, were ill during the recent Test series. However, the biggest challenge is overcoming a formidable opponent in conditions tailored to its style of play. Indian batsmen have always flourished at home but recently their fast bowlers have become more effective on flat pitches by learning to reverse-swing the ball. Fielding used to be a weakness, but the average age of this squad is 24 and they are fleet-footed, safe, and accurate.
England's limited-overs form was excellent before the three massive defeats. They beat South Africa 4-0 at home and their coach Peter Moores said they needed to play the same quality of cricket in different conditions in India. Their bowlers in particular need to find the right length quickly, especially against an opening pair that will attack from the outset. Ground once ceded is hard to regain. England bat deep - Stuart Broad is at No 9 - but there is little their batsmen can do if they have to chase 300-plus totals on a regular basis.
Form guide (last 5 ODIs, most recent last)
Watch out for
India's opening partnership: The Rajkot match will be remembered for Yuvraj Singh's astonishing strokeplay but the foundation for India's victory was laid by their openers. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were in excellent form during the Tests against Australia and they carried it into the first one-dayer. Both openers scored half-centuries and added 127 in 19.5 overs: a partnership full of big hits and terrific running between the wickets.
England's big two, Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen. Flintoff finished with 1 for 67 in Rajkot but he had figures of 1 for 34 off eight overs before he was battered by Yuvraj. Flintoff was the only bowler to exercise control over the run-rate during the first half of the Indian innings. Although the contest had been decided by the time Pietersen began his innings, he was in excellent touch during his 63, off 56 balls, and particularly severe on India's spinners, scoring 43 off 29 balls against them.
The batting team's Powerplay: Dhoni and Collingwood both felt that the new playing condition, under which the batting team could choose when to take a Powerplay, made one-day cricket more interesting. The tendency has been to take it around the 34th over, when the mandatory ball change happens. England took it in the 34th and scored 56, while India took it in the 35th and managed 41.
There was uncertainty on Sunday over the fitness of two Indian players - Ishant Sharma and Yuvraj. Ishant injured his ankle during the Test series against Australia and missed the first ODI in Rajkot. Mahendra Singh Dhoni said the fast bowler would almost certainly miss Monday's game because it would give him a period of five to seven days to recover. Yuvraj had trouble with his back during his century in Rajkot and, although a local doctor said there was no internal injury, his fitness will be assessed on the morning of the game. If Yuvraj is unavailable, Virat Kohli is likely to be his replacement.
India (probable): 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 RP Singh, 11 Munaf Patel.
Collingwood said Ryan Sidebottom, the left-arm medium-pacer, was "fully fit to play" after he missed the first game with an Achilles tendon problem. If England pick Sidebottom, he will probably replace James Anderson, who took the new ball in Rajkot and conceded 52 in eight overs without a wicket.
England (probable): 1 Matt Prior (wk), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Owais Shah, 4 Kevin Pietersen (capt), 5 Andrew Flintoff, 6 Paul Collingwood, 7 Ravi Bopara, 8 Samit Patel, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Ryan Sidebottom, 11 Steve Harmison.
Pitch and conditions
Dhoni and Pietersen both wanted to bowl first in Rajkot and the Indian captain said losing the toss was a blessing. However, he indicated that batting first would be the way to go in Indore. "The wicket will not be like the one at Rajkot," Dhoni said. "There will be wear and tear as the match progresses. It's dry and it will become slow and it will be difficult to score." Collingwood agreed, saying the pitch was flat and had some cracks and the boundaries were small. The curator, Samundar Singh Chauhan, however, was felt the toss wouldn't be that significant. "You can see a score in excess of 300 being scored and maybe even being chased. The wicket is hard and will last 100 overs."
Stats & Trivia
"We just have to stop them. We need to be more aggressive. We want to hit India hard. The key is to take early wickets and put them under pressure. India is very much like any other team."
Collingwood on what England need to put into practice.
"We are always wary of becoming complacent because we will be criticised for being overconfident if we lose. We are always focused on what needs to be done."
Dhoni says his team's intensity was not about to drop.
A collection of fine cricket writing on great cricket feats, and never mind the omissions