London: Coming off contrasting wins in their previous matches, West Indies and India will face-off at The Oval on Tuesday looking to move ahead of each other and nearer to securing a place in the ICC Champions Trophy knock-out stage. With their fellow Group B teams Pakistan and South Africa having lost their opening matches last week, victory for either side will move them to four points and thus on the verge of reaching the semi-finals.
India opened the final installment of the Champions Trophy with a comfortable 26-run win over South Africa on June 6, on a lovely batting deck up in Cardiff, with their makeshift openers setting the tone for victory with a century stand. Just how significant the Shikhar Dhawan-Rohit Sharma pairing is for the future cannot be ascertained, but another impressive showing against West Indies could set the two on course for an extended run. Up against a pace attack consisting of Kemar Roach, Ravi Rampaul and Dwayne Bravo, a repeat of their Cardiff alliance could again contribute handsomely to victory.
What India will expect is better returns from Suresh Raina, who made just 9, and Dinesh Karthik, who followed two warm-up centuries with 14, against South Africa. In the absence of Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh there are spots up for grabs and Karthik, especially, has a great chance to take one of those.
The only Group B teams to have points on the board, the two teams will hope to move past the other and nearer to the semi-finals.
The scorecard from June 6 will show that India's bowlers bowled South Africa out for 305 to secure victory by 26 runs, but the reality is that their three fast bowlers were ordinary. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma each pocketed a couple wickets but Yadav and Ishant conceded far too many runs and served up buffet balls at an alarming rate. They will be lucky if they get away a second time, considering West Indies' top order has Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels in it.
Gayle and Samuels scored 39 and 30 respectively in West Indies' two-wicket win over Pakistan on Friday and will be keen to convert starts into significant scores against India. Gayle has scored runs against each of the three in the IPL not too long ago, while Samuels has admitted he sees the Champions Trophy as a big opportunity to improve his ODI numbers.
The likes of Darren Bravo and Ramnaresh Sarwan need strong returns. Following an excellent series against Zimbabwe in February, Darren Bravo's international form has tapered off and his last five international innings across all three formats read: 0, 11, 1*, 0 and 0. He did well in the warm-ups with 86 against Australia and 71 versus Sri Lanka, but made a duck against Pakistan as he edged a short ball from Mohammad Irfan to the wicketkeeper. The 32-year-old Sarwan has yet to do much since returning to the side in January, and having been shuffled down into the middle order needs to click to keep his place.
Roach, coming off a three-wicket haul, looks set to hustle India's batsmen with pace - a factor clearly missing in Cardiff where in the absence of Dale Steyn the rest of South Africa's quicks were way off their mark and served up a slew of hit-me deliveries. The presence of Sunil Narine will also make India wary.
The Oval surface for the low-scoring nail-biter between West Indies and Pakistan took turn, and this will bring into the equation Narine and Samuels as well as India's slow-bowling trio of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Raina. With a minimum 20 overs of spin assured, how Ashwin and Jadeja in particular bowl could prove a tasty sub-plot of Tuesday's match. Jadeja collected two wickets in Cardiff through accurate, nagging left-arm spin, and on a pitch likely to afford more turn than in Wales the left-arm spinner is shaping up to be a vital player against West Indies.
However, Denesh Ramdin won't feature in the match following a two-match ICC ban for claiming a dropped catch in Friday's match against Pakistan. In the absence of Ramdin, opener Johnson Charles is set to don the gloves. Also, Darren Sammy is the most likely candidate to come in for Ramdin.
India: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 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
West Indies: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles (wk), 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Kieron Pollard, 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Ravi Rampaul