For the second series in a row, England-India goes down to a decider. For the second series in a row, England have come back from being befuddled by Kuldeep Yadav to level things up. For the second series in a row, India will be hoping that one of the big guns of their top order fires them to victory and secures another trophy ahead of the marquee five-Test series.
Spiking those cannons at Lord’s was the major contributor to England eventually running out comfortable winners. The common denominator in India’s three white-ball victories so far has been a centurion in the top three: KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma at Old Trafford and Bristol in the T20Is, and Rohit – backed up by a slick 75 from Virat Kohli – in the first ODI at Trent Bridge. India’s middle order has been less productive, and the match at Headingley could hinge on whether England can make inroads again.
The scrutiny on MS Dhoni may go up a notch, too. India’s veteran tank commander rumbled into a ditch during the second ODI, a tepid 59-ball 37 so far removed from what is expected from him as a finisher that it left fans on both sides scratching their heads. He has talked about deciding to go up the order in T20, and maybe that is something to explore as India focus their World Cup plans.
England were reassured twice over by their Lord’s performance. Despite Kuldeep striking with his second and 13th deliveries, they continued to attack the wristspinner; both openers fell taking the attacking option of sweeping, while Eoin Morgan hit a full toss to a fielder on the rope, but figures of 3 for 68 were eminently manageable. The performance of Joe Root, with his 12th ODI hundred (equalling Marcus Trescothick’s record for England), then reinforced the view that his method of busy accumulation has a home in an otherwise-macho hitting line-up.
With anticipation of Kuldeep being named in India’s Test line-up growing, it will be interesting to see if Kohli is minded to protect him again – as occurred during the T20 decider at Bristol. With England and India set to remain No. 1 and No. 2 in the rankings whatever the result, Headingley will provide a useful marker as the last ODI to be played in England before World Cup year – with a little knockout pressure into the mix. It could also contribute another thread in the Test tapestry to come.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Armed with a white ball that rarely swings and asked to bowl on the most benign of surfaces, all but the quickest of quicks face a fight for survival every time they walk out in ODIs. David Willey is a man with as much fighting spirit as any member of the England squad, however, and he is having a quietly effective season in coloured clothing. He can still just about talk the new ball into doing a bit, while his death bowling has improved – and his batting has also shone through, with a maiden half-century at Lord’s to follow a match-sealing contribution against Australia at The Oval last month. He is still a little way off being classed as a genuine allrounder, but his wickets and runs have helped make up for the absence of Chris Woakes.
Suresh Raina had an opportunity to shepherd the chase after a top-order wobble at Lord’s. While he managed 48, the top score of the innings, his age-old nemesis, the short ball, had him hopping and fending awkwardly. His footwork lacked assuredness even to pitched-up deliveries. After being dropped twice, he was out bowled failing to read Adil Rashid’s googly. As key as his contributions have been in the past, the room for failures currently is minimal with India’s middle order still testing the waters as far as their combinations for the World Cup go. With Dinesh Karthik and Shreyas Iyer breathing down his neck, the onus is on Raina to ensure his return to the ODI squad after nearly three years is not short-lived.
England have called up James Vince as the spare batsman in the squad, with Dawid Malan heading to play first-class cricket with the Lions, and he could come straight into the side if Jason Roy is not fit to play. Roy hurt the little finger on his right hand going for a catch at Lord’s and sat out of training on Monday. Sam Curran has also been released to play for the Lions against India A, but Jake Ball remains an option.
England (probable) 1 Jason Roy/James Vince, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 David Willey, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Liam Plunkett, 11 Mark Wood
India seem set to continue with Raina, so the only change is likely to be in the seam-bowling attack. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was bowling smoothly in practice, having missed three games with a stiff back, and should replaces Siddarth Kaul.
India (probable) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 KL Rahul, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Umesh Yadav
Pitch and conditions
The surface at Headingley is usually good for run-scoring, with the white Kookaburra unlikely to be persuaded to do much whatever the overhead conditions: England piled up 339 for 6 at the venue against South Africa last year. The UK’s extended dry spell has resulted in a very brown surface with hardly any grass, which should bring the spinners from both sides into play.
Stats and trivia
England have won their last four ODIs at Headingley, with their most-recent defeat coming against Sri Lanka in 2011.
Kuldeep needs two wickets for 50 in ODIs – if he gets them at Headingley, in his 23rd match, he will equal Ajit Agarkar as the fastest for India.
Dhoni became only the 12th man, and fourth Indian, to record 10,000 ODI runs during his innings at Lord’s.
Jonny Bairstow needs 68 runs to reach 2000.
“If we can use this game as a semi-final, a must-win with the pressure on, we can learn what we are doing wrong if we don’t win or what we are doing right if we do. Over the past year we have dealt with these situations well and hopefully we can carry on that trend.”
England bowler Mark Wood on the decider factor
Going forward, still 16-17 games to go [before the World Cup], we are looking at in terms of the games remaining where we could look at settling the middle-order slots.”
Sanjay Bangar, India’s batting coach, acknowledges the need to work out a settled middle order