Rejuvenated India look to clinch series in Mohali
Bolstered by two emphatic back-to-back wins, India will seek to clinch the ODI series against England by taking an unassailable 3-1 lead in the fourth match here tomorrow with the under-fire hosts showing signs of rediscovering their winning touch.
After a series of indifferent performances in the recent past, the team is beginning to prove its worth with two comprehensive victories and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be hoping that his young teammates can maintain the tempo for a third successive win in the five-match series.
India's young and inexperienced bowlers excelled in the last two matches and were largely responsible for setting up the victories while some of the top-order batsmen, who have been woefully out of form, have showed signs of recovery. Clearly, the pressure will be on the visitors who have to come up with a far more inspired show to prevent the Indians from winning the series in what promises to be a thrilling contest at the PCA Stadium.
Despite the two big wins, there are still some areas of concern for the Indians who have not being able to fix their opening problems. Though Gautam Gambhir has been getting the starts and going into the 30s, he has not been able to translate them into a big knock. The other opener Ajinkya Rahane has not been in good touch and has got out cheaply. As a result, India have never really got a flying start in the series.
India have the option of trying out Cheteshwar Pujara, who has still not played a single match, in place of Rahane but that looks extremely unlikely as the young opener will be given a longer rope to regain his form. The Indian team management may not want to tinker with a winning combination and may go in with the same team that has won the last two games with resounding margins.
The young Ravindra Jadeja has been a revelation in the last two games and and it his brilliant display with the ball and bat which has made all the difference.
The Indians desperately needed an all-rounder to provide the much-needed balance to the side and Jadeja has filled in that slot admirably. But the young Saurashtra all-rounder will have to maintain his performance and not fizzle out like many others.
Captain Dhoni, understandably, is quite happy that Jadeja has found his mojo as the field restrictions under the new ODI rules have made it difficult for part-timers like Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina to bowl too many overs.
"He (Jadeja) is definitely someone who is giving us that balance. In that way, Jadeja is the perfect person to have. We have been struggling with the bowling all-rounder. Irfan (Pathan) is the only one that we have got," Dhoni had said.
"Before the new rules, we used to rely on Yuvraj Singh and other part timers to get over with the 10 overs. With the new rule, Yuvi will need a bit more time to settle down as a bowler," he said.
Virat Kohli's return to form augurs well for the Indians who have been badly let down by the constant failures of the middle order batsmen in recent tournaments. Kohli smashed an unbeaten 77 in the last game in Ranchi and will feel a lot more confident and relaxed when he takes guard at the Mohali track which is expected to offer something for the quick bowlers, particularly when the ball is new.
Yuvraj Singh has looked in fine nick in the brief cameos that he has played but will be looking for a big knock while captain Dhoni, who has been in red hot form right through the series, will hope to carry on.
In the bowling department, paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed have been impressive but Ishant Sharma has proved to be quite inconsistent and expensive. Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin had a good outing in Ranchi.
England, on the other hand, have plenty to worry about with neither their bowling nor batting departments living upto expectation. Captain Alastair Cook has not tormented the Indians as he did in the Test series while dangerman Kevin Pietersen has also not fired though he was trifle unlucky as he fell victim to a dubious decision in Ranchi.
England's batsmen have struggled to counter the Indian spinners. Kumar and Ahmed have managed to make early inroads from which the Englishmen have not been able to recover in the last two matches. But Cook reckons his team has enough quality to fightback and restore balance in the series.
"We've got some quality players in our dressing room who can, on their day, win games for England and if we want to win we need to stand up as batsmen and deliver," Cook said. "We must go into the match with a clear mind and not look for magic answers because we haven't scored runs for a couple of games. We've got to be clear and start producing the goods out in the middle and not just talk about it," he said.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c and wk), Ajinkya Rahane, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Shami Ahmed, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara Amit Mishra and Ashok Dinda.
England: Alastair Cook (c), Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Craig Kieswetter (wk), Samit Patel, Chris Woakes, James Tredwell, Steven Finn, Jade Dernbach, Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs, Jos Buttler, Stuart Meaker.
Match starts at 12 noon (IST).