England seek consolation in heated series

The series may be in their grasp, but India are unlikely to take their feet off the pedal when they take on a hapless England in the fourth ODI to push for a whitewash in the five-match ODI series here on Sunday.

Updated: October 22, 2011 22:58 IST
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Match Facts

India v England, October 23, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
Start time 1430 (0900 GMT)

Big Picture

The phrase 'to play for pride' is grossly overused, usually to lend a dead rubber some importance. But such has been the nature of the battle between India and England over the past few months that the sentiment may actually have some credence going in to the fourth ODI in Mumbai. MS Dhoni may not like the word "revenge" but surely he wouldn't mind "redemption" being used to describe India's performance at the end of the series. The magnitude of their failure in England means a simple series-win may not be enough to grant it. The fans want an emphatic scoreline.

There could hardly be a better place for India to underline their recovery from the disastrous summer tour. Though it seems like it has been an eternity since, it was only seven-and-a-half months ago that Mumbai witnessed one of India's biggest wins.

But England have had a couple of special moments in ODIs at the Wankhede Stadium too: back in 1987 they beat India to go through to the World Cup final, and in 2002, Andrew Flintoff famously ripped his shirt off and did a victory-lap around the ground after bowling England to a series-levelling five-run win.

Since then England have lost 14 of 15 completed one-day internationals in India, and the frustration is beginning to show in the body-language of their players. There have been a few verbal confrontations between the players during this series, and Tim Bresnan was fined for snatching his cap from the umpire in the third ODI. Andy Flower, the England team director, has defended his team's attitude but will know a win is the only tonic for some hurt egos.

In order to achieve that, though, England need to accept certain realities of playing India in India, the first of which is that scores of 300, while winning totals in other countries, are often just par for the course on Indian pitches. After the Mohali ODI, Alastair Cook, the England captain, said their score of 298 was defendable, a statement made mainly to justify Jonathan Trott's innings of 98 not out from 116 balls, considered too slow by some. Cook would do well to listen to what Kumar Sangakkara, a man who knows all about playing against India in their home conditions, said after the World Cup final: "Anything less than 350 is not safe against India."

Aiming higher does not necessarily mean having to drop Trott, but it does mean that pretty much no-one else can afford to score at less than a run-a-ball. A series strike-rate of 84.31 from someone like Craig Kieswetter, in the side to provide rapid starts, simply won't cut it.

Form guide

India: WWWLT (completed matches, most recent first)
England: LLLWT

In the spotlight

In the absence of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan is the leader of England's seam attack, but he's been their most-expensive bowler in the series so far, going at 6.94 in his 24.2 overs. He's got the variations to be successful in the subcontinent and may want to look back to the tied game against India during the World Cup to figure out what to do right. In that match, Bresnan was the only bowler who shone on a batsman's night, and took 5 for 48 in his 10 overs.

When Vinay Kumar said, at the start of the series, that he would be guiding the younger bowlers during this series, it seemed ironic, given that Vinay had only played six ODIs himself. After taking five wickets in three games, including a four-wicket haul in Delhi, he has indeed proved to be India's spearhead. In Mohali, he was found out in the end overs, when Samit Patel read his short balls and slower ones easily. Vinay will want to prove he can be effective at both ends of an innings.

Pitch and conditions

Mumbai sees an unusual heat wave arrive every October, and the England players are going to find it extremely uncomfortable. This is not a welcome, sunny, sunbathe in Hyde Park sort of heat. It's muggy, stifling and you are likely to perspire a river by the time you've walked from the team bus to the ground. "Mumbai is a bit hot and humid, rehydration will be the key; batsman or bowler, everyone will be tested; no more runners in cricket," MS Dhoni tweeted during India's practice session on Saturday. The England players may not have the energy to type a sentence that long by the time Sunday is over.

The pitch will be a slow turner, according to Sudhir Naik, the Wankhede curator and former India opening batsman. "It will be slower than what was prepared for the World Cup final," he told the Times of India. "It will be a dry wicket."

Team news

Umesh Yadav injured his hand while fielding in the Mohali ODI and has been replaced in the squad by Abhimanyu Mithun. That means young fast bowler Varun Aaron, who has been waiting for his chance since the England tour, could make an international debut. Dhoni said India may give other players in the squad a chance so long as it doesn't affect the balance. The uncapped legspinner Rahul Sharma for R Ashwin would be a straight swap.

India (probable): 1 Parthiv Patel, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin/Rahul Sharma, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Vinay Kumar, 11 Varun Aaron

After the Mohali ODI, the Indian Express carried a headline that read 'Bell makes some noise, but will the door open?' Even more absurd than that title is the fact that the door has stayed shut on Ian Bell, perhaps England's most naturally talented stroke-maker. Andy Flower said there would be changes in Mumbai, and surely Bell will find a place. Jonny Bairstow may be the man to make way after Samit Patel did well as a lower-order hitter in Mohali.

Graham Onions has joined the England squad as a replacement for the injured Chris Woakes, and either he or the uncapped Stuart Meaker could replace Jade Dernbach, who has gone at 6.54 through the series and looked frustrated on the field. Scott Borthwick, the 21-year-old legspinner who took five wickets in a practice match against a Hyderabad XI, may be given an international debut.

England (probable): 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Samit Patel, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Steven Finn, 11 Stuart Meaker

Stats and trivia

In Mohali, India scored 300 for the 65th time in ODIs, going past Australia's 64 to be the side with the most number of totals of 300 or more. This, after India were the last of the major teams to go past 300 in an ODI.

Virat Kohli has gone past 1000 one-day runs for 2011 in this series. Last year, he managed 995 runs.

India have won nine of the last 10 matches they have chased in.


"I have been a ball boy twice - during an India-Australia match and a game against South Africa. Both times I was near the dressing room and I was always excited to see the Indian players. I always wanted to be in there one day, and now I will do that."

Local lad Ajinkya Rahane has a unique association with the Wankhede Stadium

"As far as talent is concerned, they are very good. But they need to stick together - that's one thing that's very important, especially when the team doesn't get the desired result."

MS Dhoni has some advice for England

"Yes, there is a difference between passion and poor conduct and, on almost all occasions, I think our guys are excellent at finding that balance."

Andy Flower, the England team director, believes his team's on-field behaviour has not been out of line

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