Match factsNovember 20, 2008
Start time 09:00 local time (03:30 GMT)
One-day cricket is also about flexibility and adapting to conditions and England were muddled by team selection in Indore - Kevin Pietersen showed no faith in bowling the spinner Samit Patel during the final Powerplay, while keeping himself down instead of trying to solidify a shaky top order. Pietersen insisted England had not made a mistake in picking an unchanged team after slumping to another heavy defeat, terming the display in Indore as a sign of progress. England were marginally better in that they reduced the margin of defeat from 158 runs to 54, but they need a drastic shake up.
Graeme Swann, who played a key role in a famous away win in Sri Lanka a year ago, has been drafted into England's playing XI to bolster a weak attack. That's one plus for a struggling side, but Pietersen also needs to bat himself at No. 3 - he is England's best one-day batsman. Despite trailing India 2-0 in the seven-match series, Pietersen expressed faith that the side which beat South Africa 4-0 this summer could come back strongly here. There are even whispers that a disastrous trip to the Caribbean has destabilised Pietersen's unit.
India, conversely, find themselves on top at home again, under an energetic captain. This ODI team has continued the good work shown in the Asia Cup and in Sri Lanka, with the younger players stepping up admirably. Undoubtedly India have been lifted magnificently by Yuvraj Singh's displays in the last two games, but this side is brimming with intent. Gautam Gambhir has powered India's starts, Yuvraj has scored the most runs, and Yusuf Pathan blasted India out of a middle order collapse to a large score in the last game. Zaheer Khan has been naggingly accurate and among the wickets, while Munaf Patel has kept a lid on the runs. Harbhajan Singh hasn't been that successful, but Yuvraj, Virender Sehwag and Yusuf have kept a check with their variety of slow stuff. It will take something special to stop India going up 3-0 on what is expected to be a batting track.
Form guide (last 5 completed games, most recent first)India WWLWW
Watch out for
It's so difficult to resist not mentioning Yuvraj's name, simply because of the form he's shown in two matches. Yuvraj has displayed some deep love for this England attack, hitting a 78-ball 138 in Rajkot and following it up with 118 and four wickets in Indore. His hitting has been as pure as ever, while his left-arm spin accounted for four of England's top five in the second ODI. The tourists have had no answer to him. With such form and confidence on his side, Yuvraj will walk to the crease on an expected belter, looking down from a different plateau.
Pietersen has yet to set India ablaze with his trademark whips past mid-on and brilliant switch-hitting. He struck a bright 63 in game one, but the result was already long gone for England. A move back up to the No. 3 spot appears the best way to regain form and bail England out of trouble, and Pietersen has been known to step up when the chips are down. Trailing 0-2, with the series on the line, he may be the man for the moment.
Will an England spinner finally make an impact? Thats what the team management expect from Swann, who took seven wickets in four matches in Sri Lanka but has since struggled to maintain his place in the team. Swann took just one wicket in the recent Stanford Super Series and arrived in India expecting playing time on pitches that would assist him. Swann's uncomplicated, almost classical offspin provides a wicket-taking option for Pietersen, and he also offers good batting and fielding, which could further enhance his claims. Swann has only played 12 ODIs for England, spread over eight years, and has expressed his eagerness to play whenever the opportunity arises.
There are only two foreseeable changes for India. If Ishant returns to action, RP Singh is likely to make way. Rohit Sharma's last half-century was in July and since then his scores read 22*, 3, 19, 0, 32, 18, 3, 11* and 3. Virat Kohli impressed as opener in Sri Lanka, and having batted at Nos. 3 and 4 for Delhi, he could come in, with Suresh Raina capable of batting anywhere in the top and middle order.
India: (likely) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Virat Kohli, 6 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Munaf Patel.
England suffered a further setback when Ryan Sidebottom complained of discomfort in his back and was sent for scans. Swann is due a chance to impress and will take over the spinning responsibility from Patel. The explosive Ravi Bopara could be promoted - he was unable to practice because of a stomach complaint - although Pietersen is keen for the current top three to prove themselves.
England: (likely) 1 Matt Prior (wk), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Owais Shah, 4 Kevin Pietersen (capt), 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Andrew Flintoff, 7 Ravi Bopara, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Steve Harmison, 11 James Anderson.
Pitch and conditions
The pitch curator at Green Park Stadium has predicted a batting paradise. "The bounce would be even, ball would come nicely onto the bat and the strokemakers would make merry," said Shiv Kumar. "So far, the 294 India scored against Pakistan remains the highest at Green Park. I don't rule out a 300-plus score on Thursday."
Thats good news for the batsmen on both sides, after the raging turner prepared when India played South Africa in a Test earlier this year. There's a likely chance that smog will obstruct visibility throughout the day, because Kanpur is a very polluted town.
On a side note, local police resorted to laathi charges at to control the spilling mob which gathered to buy tickets for this match.
Stats and Trivia
- England's bowlers have given away 679 runs in two matches - 372 in fours and sixes - and haven't bowled India out yet.
- Three batsmen have scored three ODI centuries in a row - Zaheer Abbas, Saeed Anwar and Herschelle Gibbs. Yuvraj, given his form and career average of 55.78 against England, has a shot too.
"On song, Yuvraj is simply one of the best, even the top bowlers struggle against him. I hope he scores his third consecutive century here."
Dhoni puts faith in his murderous batsman, who has reeled off two tons in a row.
"I'm going to take Yuvraj out in the hotel tonight and make sure he doesn't come to Kanpur for the next game!"
Pietersen looks for other alternatives to winning a game on tour.
"Any team that wins the toss would love to bat first here. It happens so in most of the ODIs. But either way, we have to win this match, irrespective of whether we bat first or bowl first"
Swann will leave nothing to chance and believes victory is paramount
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo