India plot second whitewash of England

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> A domineering India will seek to plot a second whitewash of England when the two teams clash in the last of the two-Test cricket series on Friday.

Updated: December 19, 2008 07:35 IST
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With a new-found aura of invincibility around them, a domineering India will seek to plot a second whitewash of England when the two teams clash in the last of the two-Test cricket series on Friday.

Apart from hearts -- by defying terror and continuing with the tour, the team under Kevin Pieteresen has not won anything in India. An Indian win here would be a double blow for the Englishmen who were blanked 5-0 in the ODI series on the other side of the Mumbai terror attacks.

To their credit, England did manage to stretch India in the epic Chennai Test but now that the hosts have been jolted out of inertia and complacency, if any, things might get even more difficult for Peter Moores' wards.

Barely a month ago, the same Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium witnessed India, under its talismanic leader Mahendra Singh Dhoni, slay world champions Australia to promise a new world order and the hosts are set to dish out the same ruthless cricket which has become their hallmark of late.

The Chennai Test saw another facade of the Indian team, which has not only made winning a habit but also has mastered the art of achieving it from every conceivable situation.

Thanks to some resolute batting from Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood, England seemed holding the edge till the third day before India thumbed nose at them and ended up on the right side of an epic Test.

So clinical was the manner that the team apparently seems immune from Rahul Dravid's prolonged bad patch at the crucial number three slot, which appears a mere blip on India's radar.

Though the team continues to back him to the hilt, Dravid now finds himself in a huge mess and there seems no light at the end of the tunnel, unless he rediscovers his mojo in Mohali.

Otherwise, it seems Dhoni's men cannot do anything wrong. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have shattered the myth that the opening pair necessarily should be a stonewaller-swashbuckler duo, who would be ideal foil for each other.

Peas of the same pod, both Gambhir and Sehwag are bred in the same Delhi school of thought that propagates balls are meant to be hit. On many an occasion, their unbridled aggression has often unhinged opponents and Mohali would look forward to see them fire in unison.

Dravid's string of poor shows notwithstanding, the middle order looks formidable with Sachin Tendulkar shining the brightest in the constellation. As he proved in Chennai, he has neither aged nor waned. He remains the same sublime force he was 18 years ago, only the flourish has been replaced by fluency.

Following him, VVS Laxman may not have set series alight but England are aware of his capabilities and Yuvraj Singh too finally seems serious about a Test career. The issue was temperament, and not talent, with Yuvraj but if his matured Chennai knock is anything to go by, the left-hander has decided to occupy the slot vacated by Sourav Ganguly.

Fortunately for India, there is no worry as such in the bowling department either. At the moment, Zaheer Khan is arguably the best pace bowler around and under his tutelage, Ishant Sharma is maturing with every match.

Zaheer's grasp of reverse swing makes him such a lethal force and England has already got a taste of his medicine in Chennai.

In the spin department, both Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra were below-par in Chennai but tomorrow is another day and they still have it in them to tie the Englishmen in tangles.

For England, the cup of woes is full to the brim and they don't have a clue how to snap the seemingly never-ending string of defeats in India right from the ODI series.

Strauss and Collingwood did look good in Chennai but that was just not enough. The bowling looked quite pedestrian and frontline spinner Monty Panesar was a huge let down in Chennai.

Desperate to stem the rot, England would mull a rejig and Owais Shah, banking on his ODI form, is fancying his chances of replacing the off-colour Ian Bell.

Stuart Broad is set to return to the side and Graeme Swann, and not Monty Panesar, might be the casualty even though the offie did far better than his Sikh teammate in Chennai. Alternately, England might retain both and axe either James Anderson or Steve Harmison, both of whom failed to shine in Chennai.

Teams (From):

India: MS Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tenduklar, S Badrinath, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma and Murali Vijay.

England: Kevin Pietersen (capt), Tim Ambrose, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Amjad Khan, Monty Panesar, Matt Prior, Owais Shah, Andrew Strauss, Graeme Swann.

Hours of play: 9.30 to 11.30 am, 12.10 to 2.10 pm, 2.30 to 4.30 pm.

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