There seems to be little that can stop the Virat Kohli-led Indian team from clinching the series 2-0 at Cuttack, unless the Englishmen shrug off the horrors of their tour so far, and orchestrate an effort that persists till the very last over of the match.
Despite having won nearly every encounter against the visitors so far, since landing here in November, the path towards victory has certainly not been an easy one, as was evident in the opening ODI in Pune.
The English batsmen played with the same touch of aggression and intensity that has made them a limited-overs side to reckon with since the 2015 World Cup. The pacers did everything right in drying the runs up, forcing the batsmen to make mistakes and eventually collapse to 63/4, with dark clouds of defeat looming right above their heads.
But that's when Kohli — and a rather surprise package in Kedar Jadhav — took the game away from them. The duo forged a partnership that would build the foundation for a memorable victory. One that would not only give the Indians the series lead, but perhaps even deal a psychological blow to Eoin Morgan and Co ahead of the crucial tie at Cuttack's Barabati Stadium.
That Kohli will be a primary target for England is a given, and the batting superstar and newly-crowned Indian limited-overs captain will dominate the opposition's team meetings and plans ahead of the games to come.
As far as the second ODI is concerned, pacer Jake Ball said that he and his team-mates would try and target him with the short ball, as well as try and mix their deliveries up in order to unsettle his rhythm.
Except, nobody seems to have any answers for stopping Kohli from scoring freely all over the park. There simply aren't any solutions coming in at the moment, and it doesn't look any likelier in the coming years.
What Kohli, however, will be hoping for in the coming ODI is a better fight from the Indian top-order. MS Dhoni, who recently stepped down from leadership in ODIs and T20Is, will look to get some runs under his belt to prove that he is no pushover at this stage, with either the bat or gloves.
Yuvraj Singh had a rather impressive comeback, or at least in the 12 deliveries that he faced before nicking one behind the stumps, and will certainly look to repay the faith that the selectors have put on him after his feats in the recently-concluded Ranji Trophy.
The rope though, was cut by half for Shikhar Dhawan after his dismissal for just one, given the tremendous competition at the top of the Indian batting order. It nearly has become a do-or-die situation for Dhawan, and he has to get a big score now in order to preserve his place in the side.
While the Indian bowling was far from impressive, captain Kohli will hope that his go-to spinner Ravichandran Ashwin can return to his decisive ways in the second game. Amit Mishra, who dished out match-winning spells in the ODI series against New Zealand, might get a call-up should the team-management decide to make a change to the winning XI from the first game.
Death-overs specialist Jasprit Bumrah, for one, will look to grip the ball better, having conceded quite a few no-balls the other day, called for height, and produce a better performance in the last 10 overs.
For England, it was heartening to see the batting unit make full use of a pitch that had runs written all over it. The talismanic Joe Root and opener Jason Roy milked runs early in the innings, and were joined by Ben Stokes and his strokes in all directions.
While the batsman batted with the same intensity that has played an important part in shaping them into the formidable limited-overs side that they are today, the bowling unit couldn't quite replicate the same, and were found wanting on most occasions.
Captain Morgan will hope his spin department will put up a better show in the second game, after they looked clueless against the ruthless pair of Kohli and Jadhav, as well as the remainder of the batting order.
While there aren't too many options for the English think-tank to tinker with in the team, they could possibly look up to Liam Dawson as a possible recruit for Cuttack in place of either Moeen Ali or Adil Rashid — the latter being the likelier because of the quick runs that Moeen got, as well as Rashid's own ineptitude at Pune.
The toss will play a crucial role, given the heavy amount of dew that the pitch curator expects to build up sometime around sunset.
"It's difficult for me to predict a total but this pitch will be full of runs as it has always been. It will be an out and out batting (pitch) and it's up for the batters to make it count," said Odisha Cricket Association's chief curator Pankaj Patnaik.
India: Virat Kohli (c), KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Amit Mishra.
England: Eoin Morgan (c), Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Jake Ball, Liam Dawson, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Liam Plunkett.
Published Date: Jan 19, 2017 08:50 AM | Updated Date: Jan 19, 2017 08:50 AM