Ranchi: The scoreline says the series is even at 1-1, but after a commanding 127-run win in Kochi it can be argued that India are now the side with the momentum as the bandwagon moves to MS Dhoni's hometown. At Ranchi on Saturday the odds look to be stacked against England, who after a narrow win in the series opener were made to look very ordinary in the second match, and with a partisan crowd acting as 12th man it is Alastair Cook's team who need to prevent any overwhelming.
Such is the nature of limited-overs cricket that fortunes can change quickly. Following their crushing win in the second ODI, India have added a bit of confidence to their stride but there are concerns. The batting slumped to 119 for 4 before Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja smoothed over the situation. As Dhoni said after Tuesday's win, the batting has not been able to convert starts into big innings. Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane again failed to provide a start, both being bowled to pace, while Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh crossed 30 only to fall to aggressive shots. Raina and Dhoni, especially, have been able to revive poor starts but there is a genuine concern that should either fail, India will be bowled out cheaply. Rahane's poor outings could, just maybe, open up an ODI debut for the in-form Cheteshwar Pujara.
Jadeja's Man-of-the-Match showing – 60 not out off 37 balls and 2 for 12 from seven overs – was a crucial effort for India and the youngster's innings proved that can hit a long ball. The left-arm-spinning-allrounder remains a vital feature in the line-up, and shows up England's equivalent, Samit Patel. Patel has unbeaten knocks of 44 and 30 in the series but has failed to take a wicket and his fielding pales in comparison to Jadeja's. India's effort in the field has been sparkling of late and Dhoni admitted it "big positive" that helped smooth over the batting form and the inconsistency of the bowlers.
Such is the nature of limited-overs cricket that fortunes can change quickly and after a crushing win in Kochi, India will be confident of going up 2-1 at Ranchi.
Cook was left to term Dhoni as "probably the best player in the world" to bowl to at the death after the Indian captain's counter-attacking 66-ball 72 helped India to a match-winning 285. Dhoni and Jadeja injected 96 runs in ten overs for the sixth wicket and were harsh on England's inexperienced bowling attack during the latter stages of the Kochi ODI. That has left Cook wondering how to marshal his bowlers, especially the pace trio of Steven Finn, Jade Dernbach and Chris Woakes who bled runs in the last ten overs.
Woakes conceded 60 in nine overs while Dernbach's two wickets cost 36.5 runs a piece and his economy rate was 8.11. One of the two fast bowlers could make way for Stuart Meaker, whose last ODI came at Kolkata in October 2011. Joe Root looks to have done enough to keep his place at No. 4, meaning Jos Buttler should keep warming the bench.
Kevin Pietersen tweeted after the Kochi game that it was the best atmosphere he had every played in front of, but at the newly constructed HEC International Stadium in Ranchi, hosting its first match in any format, England could be greeted by an even more boisterous crowd.
India: 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Ajinkya Rahane/Cheteshwar Pujara, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Shami Ahmed
England: 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 7 Samit Patel, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 James Tredwell, 10 Steven Finn, 11 Jade Dernbach