Mohali: From the heat and humidity of Kochi and the heat and dust of Ranchi, the cooler climes of Chandigarh have come as a welcome relief to England.
Their spirits obviously buoyed by a return to familiar 'English' conditions - as Ian Bell put it - England went through their paces at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Monday (January 21), determined to be fully prepared for the fourth One-Day International on Wednesday (January 23) to prevent India from taking a winning 3-1 lead in the five-match series.
That crushing defeats in the last two games have done little to dampen the spirit of the squad was evident during a noisy, fun-filled fielding session that ended on a slightly deflating note with Steven Finn picking up a finger injury. Finn didn't bowl in the nets that followed, though with so much time between now and the start of the game, it will be foolhardy to suggest at this stage he is in any great doubt for the match.
England have been let down by their batting in the last two matches, failing to bat out 50 overs while chasing 286 for victory in Kochi and then being bowled out in 42.2 overs when they batted first in Ranchi. "If we are going to get 150, that is not going to challenge India at all in these conditions," said Bell, who began the series with a flowing 85 in Rajkot but has since tapered off with scores of 1 and 25 in the next two games.
"There is no doubt we set the template in the first ODI. If we set a platform, our middle order is very powerful and destructive," said Bell. "We need to get a foundation, a platform for our big hitters in the middle to get us going and we have shown we can do that. But maybe we didn't adapt well enough to the conditions, certainly in the last game. It probably was a good toss to win but we didn't keep our wickets in hand enough so that we could go hard at India and that was disappointing because in a way, that was quite English conditions for us, the ball seaming around a little bit."
England are heavily reliant on their top three - Alastair Cook, Bell and Kevin Pietersen - to set the tone. Cook and Bell added 158 in the first game when England amassed 325 for four, but in the next two games, the opening stands were four (158 all out) and 24 (155 all out).
"The opening stand is important but we have got a batting order that can deal with that (the loss of an early wicket)," said Bell. "With the new rules and two new balls, if there is a little bit in the wicket then you have to play well. It's not going to be easy to come out and play massively aggressive shots. Both teams have shown that. India have played very similarly to us at the top of the order. No one team has been more aggressive than the other.
"One thing we haven't done so well is we have lost wickets in clusters, which isn't going to help. It showed again the other night when we lost three wickets in the middle, it just slowed us completely down. (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni showed us in Kochi that if you have got wickets in hand, the last 15 overs and certainly the last 10, after the Power Play, it's very hard for bowlers to stop you from scoring runs. We haven't been able, in the last two, to get ourselves in a position to capitalise on that. Hopefully we can get ourselves into positions to hurt India in the back-end of the innings."
England find themselves in a must-win situation, this after having taken an early 1-0 advantage. "I guess we have been a little bit disappointed, the way we have played," conceded Bell. "We haven't really put in the performances that have challenged India at all, which is disappointing."
"We went into the first ODI losing two warm-up games and we put in a performance. We have to keep believing that we can win and we have shown that we can do that," said Bell when asked if the confidence in the camp was low. "But we have to get our basics right, we have to perform and all eleven players have to play well. India are a fantastic team in these conditions and if we don't perform well as a group, we are going to get beaten."
England are contemplating changes, with Jos Buttler likely to replace Craig Kieswetter behind the stumps and Chris Woakes expected to come in for Jade Dernbach, hugely expensive this series. It is, however, Bell and the batting group that will have to do the running.
Story first published on: Tuesday, 22 January 2013 10:19 IST