India have another chance of asserting their supremacy in ODI cricket when they play England in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy at Edgbaston on Sunday. MS Dhoni's Blue Brigade trumped Sri Lanka in the final of the ICC World Cup just over two years ago and a victory here will put them at a pedestal very few have managed to reach.
England have all to play for as they want to get fourth time lucky. Four times they have reached the final of an ICC ODI tournament, and each time they ended up as losers. But Alastair Cook's team can change despair into joy if they upset a formidable Indian side.
Having won all their matches comfortably, India have looked by far the best team in the eight-team competition, while barring their defeat against Sri Lanka in the league phase, England too are the form side.
Both teams' batsmen have blossomed in the tournament. Their top four batsmen have been amongst the runs. While the Indian quartet of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik have scored 709 runs between them, England's Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Joe Root have added 675 runs.
In Dhawan, India seem to have unearthed a long-term opening prospect, who scores runs at a brisk pace and is equally pleasing on the eye with his stroke play. His 332 runs at an average over 110 make him the tournament's leading run-scorer. Their gamble of playing Rohit as an opener also paid off well as the 26-year-old not only looked focussed at the job but also provided the team good starts in all their matches along with Dhawan. Kohli is growing in confidence with each international outing, while Karthik has been solid in most of his trips to the crease.
For England, Cook and Bell have done well at the beginning of the innings, while Trott has turned out to be their best batsman in the tournament in the absence of the prolific Kevin Pietersen. With 209 runs at 69.66, he has been the man in form and England will hope him to make a major contribution in the summit clash. Root, with his sensible stroke play in the middle innings, too has established himself in the side.
Although the lower middle orders of both the sides have remained untested so far, the quality they posses (MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja for India; Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara and Jos Buttler for England) can explode whenever the time demands.
Equally good bowling units:
Although it looked at the beginning that India's bowling could be their weakness, it thrived as the tournament progressed. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, like Dhawan, is looking promising with more international exposure. Though only a medium pacer, his control over his bowling has been standout so far. While Umesh Yadav did the work of a rattler, Ishant Sharma finally seems to be doing justice to his talent. The lanky pacer, who has been brought in as one change to Kumar and Yadav, has done the dual work of tying up the batsmen and picking up wickets. But the bowling of the Indian spinners - Jadeja and R Ashwin - in the English conditions has been a surprise package. They look sharp, accurate and chief suppliers of wickets in the middle period.
England have used the two new balls better than any other team in the competition, with James Anderson bowling at his best. Having taken ten wickets so far, the England bowling spearhead was at times unplayable as he moved the ball in and out with equal tenacity. With their tall frames and penetrating line and length, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn have done the supporting roles perfectly. But the surprise package for the home side has been the form of offspinner James Tredwell, who has filled Graeme Swann's shoes with equal effectiveness. Tredwell, who got the opportunity only because of Swann's injury, has done well with four wickets.
With the weather in Birmingham not looking so promising, both teams will hope to jostle for the bragging rights instead of sitting in the pavilions and sharing the trophy. India have already done it once when they were declared joint-winners with Sri Lanka in 2002. They surely don't want an encore of that. England have a great chance to prove their critics wrong that they are equally focussed on limited-overs cricket as they are on the five-day format.
England: 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 James Anderson, 10 James Tredwell, 11 Steven Finn
India: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Dinesh Karthik, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Umesh Yadav