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India look to rub salt on English wounds

cricket Updated: Nov 16, 2008 22:56 IST
Nilankur Das
Nilankur Das
Hindustan Times
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Watching Kevin Pietersen bat at the nets on Sunday was an indication of how cricket is changing quickly. Switch hits, reverse sweeps and scoops over the wicketkeeper's head — shots for slower pitches — are now part of a serious nets session.

The boundary at the Maharani Usha Raje Cricket Centre ground is only slightly bigger than the one in Rajkot, but the wicket, though tipped as conducive to batting, looks on the slower side — if practice strips are an indication.

The slowness of the wicket will make batting first important possibly because teams fear that the wicket might deteriorate as the game progresses.

And if the pitch gets slower with the day, the new powerplay rule, which many feel gives an edge to chasing teams might not be as advantageous.

England, after the drubbing in Rajkot can hardly afford another loss of that proportion. It could dent their morale, which they said is still right up there.

Former skipper Paul Collingwood, introduced as 'Paul Colin' by a Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association official, announced at the pre-match media conference that Ryan Sidebottom was 100 per cent fit and available for the second ODI on Monday, something that could boost their new-ball attack and spirits.

But having seen the left-arm seamer's knack of picking up niggles, like his Achilles problem returned during the Stanford Championships where he was making a comeback after a long lay-off, it is unlikely that he would be hurried. However, unlike in Rajkot, England did not announce their playing XI here. Same could be the case for Ishant Sharma, who, unlike Sidebottom, bowled with good pace at the nets without apparent signs of any discomfort in the injured ankle but is likely to get a few more days to recover.

Yuvraj Singh, who picked up a lower back sprain in the first match and skipped India's optional practice session on Sunday along with Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan, has improved a lot according to skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But a final call on whether the hero of Rajkot would play here would be taken before the match starts. Virat Kohli could be a likely replacement. Other than that, the XI that capped a 158-run win in the Hero Honda Cup opener, is likely to remain unchanged.

If Yuvraj does not play, the already inexperienced Indian middle order that the English are looking to target, would be further weakened. "If Yuvraj does not play it would definitely be a bonus,” said Collingwood. "There is not much experience in the middle order and if we can get a couple of early breakthroughs and put pressure on the middle order we will have a good chance."