This is where it could all change for India, at Old Trafford on Thursday, in the midway match of a seven-game series. If India lose this game, the momentum will be completely with England, if India win, the series would be split wide open.
The atmosphere ahead of the fourth one-dayer was peculiarly tense in Camp India, and those frayed nerves were reflected in the way the usually calm Robin Singh, India's beleaguered fielding coach, reacted to the electronic media grilling him on India's off days on the field.
"I don't read or see what your reports say," Singh snapped, adding, rather obscurely: "The media is partly responsible for the team's poor fielding.” He later calmed down though, saying that everyone needed to be “patient” with the team. And then spoilt that plea by adding, “There's only so much we can do if the players go and field poorly.”
And after that, instead of meeting with waiting print journalists, he zoomed off for the ground. Now whether that was because he wanted to avoid more questions or because he genuinely believed every moment counted, given India's dismal fielding, is something only he knows.
Having said that though, India's fielders also got short shrift from bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad, who said his speedsters would have looked better if the fielding was better. “All of them (the pacers) have bowled exceedingly well up front,” Prasad said. “But they haven't been supported in the field. Had the catches been taken, the picture could well have been different.”
Meanwhile, India will likely go back to the seven-four combination of the first game. If that happens, given that both spinners have done well, one fast bowler could sit out and Rahul Dravid would have to fall back on Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Sourav Ganguly to share the fifth bowler's quota.
“The fifth bowler has conceded as many runs as the combination of these three did in the first match,” cricket manager Chandu Borde said. “So we will see whether to go in with a six-five or a seven-four combination on Thursday morning.”
Two for the price of one?
For England though, while all-rounders Andrew Flintoff and Dimitri Mascarenhas are fit again, a different worry cropped up with skipper Paul Collingwood missing Wednesday's practice session with a stomach bug. So who takes over if he doesn't take the field on the morrow? “At the moment, we are not even thinking about it,” Flintoff said, adding, “Earlier in the team meetings, we had discussed that if Colly is not on the field, I will take charge.”
Interestingly however, Kevin Pietersen has been setting a lot of fields through the series, so could that be a potential conflict area? Unlikely but who knows --- it could add some spice to the proceedings!