Friday, January 11, 2013

Men in Blue look to maintain home advantage

RAJKOT, January 11, 2013

The onset of a fresh clash between India and England on Indian soil is viewed by the visitor as an opportunity to reproduce the resilience it showed in the four-Test series and outwit the home team in the five-match One-Day Internationals that is set to start at a new venue here on Friday.

It has been only a week short of a month when Alastair Cook's team displayed the English bulldog spirit to stun India 2-1 in the Test rubber.

Upbeat mood

An upbeat England is keen to improve its one-day record in a country where it has not won a bilateral series for 27 years. It has also lost Champions Trophy and World Cup matches to India.

The odds appear to be stacked against it especially after it received a 5-0 drubbing on the last two tours (2008 and 2011). It had lost the 2006 series 1-5.

While it may fancy its chances, even with a limited set of experienced batsmen in Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell, the outcome of the series in its favour would largely depend on its pace attack.

Thorough professionals

When compared to Pakistan's giant-like 7.1 feet tall Mohammad Irfan, the England attack of Steve Finn (6.7), Jade Dernbach (6.2), Stuart Meaker (6.1), Chris Woakes (6.2) and Tim Bresnan (6) appear a trifle short.

But they are thorough professionals ready to take responsibility, in the absence of James Anderson and Stuart Broad (who will be available for the last two matches), along with Swann.

England, which spent almost a week in Delhi experiencing the biting cold and lost the warm-up matches to India 'A' and Delhi, arrived here on Wednesday.

It must have felt more comfortable at temperatures that are far from freezing, but a look at the wicket at the Khanderi Stadium, which has produced almost 700 runs in each of the four Challenger Series matches, would have suggested the Herculean effort its seam bowlers and spinners would have to put in to restrict the Indian batsmen. Cook would like to make up for his poor run in the home series against South Africa against a seam attack that is new with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed.

England would see Pietersen as the linchpin and expect Bell, who scored 91 against India 'A' and 108 against Delhi, to provide substance in the middle order.

New faces

India's selectors have shown readiness to bring in new faces, following the poor showing against England and Pakistan. They have selected the team for three matches and would expect Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane to spend time in the middle for the likes of Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh to play their part with gusto.

Suresh Raina has been patchy, but has been more than useful in working partnerships with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who said it is unlikely that Cheteshwar Pujara would make his one-day debut.

The India captain would hope for a better performance from his batsmen in order to provide succour for the bowlers who feel that the new playing conditions make it trickier for them, especially in the non-Power Play (PP) overs when only four fielders are allowed outside the restriction area.

It's only two in the first block of 10 PP overs and three in the batting PP overs that have to be completed by the 40th over.

Though beaten by Pakistan 1-2, India will look forward to maintain the home advantage, which it currently enjoys with 26 wins in 40 matches.

But in order to accomplish this objective its batsmen will have to make runs aplenty.

The squads (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt.), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Shami Ahmed, Rohit Sharma, Amit Mishra, Ashoke Dinda, Cheteshwar Pujara.

England: Alastair Cook (capt.), Joe Root, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs, Joseph Buttler, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Craig Kieswetter, Stuart Meakar, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes.

Umpires: S. Ravi and Steve Davis. Third umpire: Vineet Kulkarni. Fourth umpire: Rajeev Deshpande.

Match referee: Andy Pycroft.
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