Mohali: The match with the “perfect script”, as MS Dhoni termed it, went to India. They now hold a 2-1 lead with two matches to play and victory in Mohali on Wednesday will ensure Dhoni’s team wins the contest to extend their unbeaten series run over England at home to 2001. England cannot be whitewashed – they won the first ODI by nine runs – but they are staring at another series defeat unless they can improve dramatically in the fourth match.
India’s seven-wicket win with 131 deliveries to spare in Ranchi on Saturday was easily their most complete performance of recent times as their bowlers rolled England over for 155 in 42.2 overs, before Virat Kohli clicked and Yuvraj Singh showed a return to form. Gautam Gambhir scratched his way to 33 off 53 balls before throwing his wicket away, and needs runs to keep his place in the team. Kohli’s return to runs with a Man-of-the-Match performance in Ranchi will ease the nerves in the camp while the sight of Yuvraj driving and pulling with authority during a 21-ball 30 should also be taken as a significant plus.
With the ball, India’s pace trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed and Ishant Sharma appears a capable unit and with Ravindra Jadeja plucking wickets for hardly any runs, the bowling has been potent.
England cannot be whitewashed but they are staring at another series defeat unless they can improve dramatically in the fourth match at Mohali.
With the Indian selectors naming an unchanged side for the last two ODIs, the only possible change could be Ajinkya Rahane making way for Cheteshwar Pujara at the top. Rahane has been bowled by Steven Finn in the last two matches, both times falling prey to incoming deliveries when playing with a faulty technique. Though many will argue that the 24-year-old Mumbai batsman deserves the full series for a better assessment of his abilities as an international player, it can also be argue that Pujara should be tested in blue clothing.
England’s defeat on Saturday was their 18th in their last 21 ODIs against India in India and Alastair Cook had to look no further that the scorecard to assess where the game was lost. A total of 155 proved impossible to defend, and Cook knows that a third limp display in a row could easily mean the end of the series as a contest. He and Ian Bell at the top have been guilty of failing to lay platforms, while Eoin Morgan’s struggles in the middle have meant the lower middle order and tail has had to rebuild without the assurance of a game-changing batsman.
Craig Kieswetter and Samit Patel are two middle-order batsman with big question marks over their heads following their failures in the last match; they both fell for ducks in one Jadeja over which turned the innings from bad to worse. With Patel not making an impact with the ball either, the slow left-armer Danny Briggs could get his second ODI cap in Mohali. Kieswetter should hold his place considering he is a specialist wicketkeeper, though Jos Buttler can easily step in as designated glovesman.
Stuart Broad has been ruled out of the last two matches after poor weather prevented him from leaving London, which means that England have to manage with the core group in India. After another poor outing – he conceded 45 runs in five overs in Ranchi – Jade Dernbach is the bowler under the scanner and his place could go to Stuart Meaker, whose last ODI came at Kolkata in October 2011.
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/Danny Briggs, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 James Tredwell, 10 Steven Finn, 11 Stuart Meaker