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November 25, 2008
Match factsNov 26, 2008
Big PictureA series of contrasting fortunes is dead in terms of a contest but there's plenty for both sides to play for. India, with a comfortable 4-0 lead, will test their bench strength while aiming to avoid complacency as they chase a clean sweep and keep up the momentum ahead of the Tests. They have never won five games on the trot in a two-team contest - against England in 2006 they won four before rain interrupted their run. England have been getting better with every defeat and will, as captain Kevin Pietersen said, need to "keep their chins up". Pietersen wants them to come "back firing on all cylinders" and he can take heart from a Cuttack factoid: England lost the inaugural ODI, in 1982, at the Barabati Stadium, but in three matches since, they have emerged victors - one of those, though, was against Pakistan.
Pietersen's appointment as captain worked instant wonders for the team during the home summer - they won one Test and four consecutive ODIs against South Africa - but he knows the pressure on him will increase with each defeat. They might have had excuses for being distracted during the Stanford Super Series but they seem to lack focus during the ongoing series as well. England opted for a team meeting instead of the usual practice session - India had optional nets - the day before the game, an exercise to get the team to "identify areas that have not gone quite right".
India's Bangalore win was preceded by a selection controversy over RP Singh's omission from the squad but another dominant display there meant Dhoni emerged with one more series win. The Indian juggernaut keeps rolling over all-comers under his leadership and Dhoni wants to keep winning - a 7-0 scoreline would be a welcome addition to an already-impressive captaincy record. Coach Gary Kirsten has asked his team to look at the upcoming contests as a three-match series.
Form guide (last 5 completed ODIs, most recent last)India LWWWW
Watch out forOwais Shah - His powerful 48-ball 72 kept England in the hunt during their chase of a stiff 198 in Bangalore. England's players have expressed their keenness to play in the IPL and, if Shah continues his big-hitting, it will not only boost his team but also the potential of offers from franchises.
Paul Collingwood - Top scored with 71 in England's 16-run win in 2002 in Cuttack. He's made 44 in four innings in the series so far, and if his performance does not improve, the former captain's place will be under scrutiny.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni - The captain has led his team to the series but he could do with a big innings under his belt before his first Test series completely in charge. Dhoni suppressed his attacking instinct in Kanpur to ensure India did not lose wickets with a D/L result likely. With the others firing he has had it easy, unlike the ODIs in Sri Lanka, but he will want to stamp his mark with the bat as well.
Team newsEngland need to settle on their combination at the top of the order. Matt Prior has been shunted down, with Ravi Bopara the latest man to partner Ian Bell. Despite a stand of 79 in Kanpur, the rate of scoring early in the innings is still a major problem. Owais Shah was back at No. 3 for the 22-over chase in Bangalore, but could slip to six again with Kevin Pietersen heading back to first drop as England continue to send out plenty of mixed signals. Also worrying is the form of James Anderson, who has one wicket in England's last eight completed games, and has not kept the runs down against India, conceding 158 runs off 25 overs. Steve Harmison is likely to replace him although he, too, was expensive in the first two ODIs, but his ability to generate bounce could provide problems for the batsmen.
England (probable) 1 Ravi Bopara, 2 Ian Bell, 3 Kevin Pietersen (capt), 4 Paul Collingwood, 5 Andrew Flintoff, 6 Owais Shah, 7 Samit Patel, 8 Matt Prior (wk), 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Graeme Swann, 11 Steve Harmison.
After the Bangalore match, Dhoni said the unused players would be tried in the remaining games. Dhoni himself could do with a break, but there is no other keeper in the squad, though Thursday's selection meeting for the last two ODIs could redress that. Virat Kohli, Irfan Pathan and Pragyan Ojha will be hoping to get a chance in Cuttack.
India (probable) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Zaheer Khan/Irfan Pathan, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Munaf Patel.
Pitch and conditionsThe Barabati Stadium hosted day-night games during last month's Challenger Trophy. With the pitches on the slower side there were not many big scores, and teams were dismissed four times in eight innings. No rain is expected on Wednesday, but dew could play a factor during the chase. The curator, Pankaj Patnaik, felt the team winning the toss would bat. "The pitch is looking good, it's compact," he told the Indian Express. "It's a sporting wicket, and the bowlers will get good bounce here. But at the end of the day, it's a one-day match and the pitch will be batsman-friendly."
Stats & Trivia
Quotes"Some of the lads have not played a great deal in India, played in front of these type of crowds with the attention on cricket you get over here. The World Cup is over here in a few years' time, so the more opportunities to play out here and develop your skills on these type of wickets, the more it will be beneficial to this group of lads."
"I think the exciting thing about this team is that they are playing for each other. We are more interested in what we can achieve as a team rather than individuals."
Winning as a unit matters, says India coach Gary Kirsten
"Everyone feels they are hitting the ball okay and the bowlers feel all right - you're not going to forget how to play your shots overnight just because you don't practice for one day."
Aborting a practice session is no big deal, says Owais Shah
A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches
Bide your time, put your body behind each delivery, and play with the batsman's mind