This fifth one-dayer at Headingley is where it all starts, or, for that matter, ends. India would be looking to do what they did in Belfast two months ago, albeit on a much bigger scale — come from behind to win a series. In Ireland, they came back after losing the opening game to beat more fancied South Africa and win 2-1.
Here in the NatWest, even though England were the underdogs at the start of the series, they have become overwhelming favourites to finish it in double-quick time by going 4-1 up on Sunday. And for India, beset as they are by worries over fitness, worries over fielding, worries over the No. 3 position and the general stiffness that comes towards the end of a long, arduous tour, the come-from-behind task looks a massive ask.
Happy Colly looks to extend ruthless run
England, who have batted well, bowled well and fielded superbly (in comparison and otherwise) are definitely the favourites to finish things.
Under Collingwood, they seem to have found someone with fresh ideas, fresh vision and an ability to not rub anyone else (read seniors in the team) the wrong way. Collingwood is looking not just to wrap the series up on Sunday but also to finish it off 6-1. "We want to win all three remaining games," said Collingwood. "We have improved and want to carry the momentum on." The only blip on his radar was that of Flintoff, who is moving in and out of the injury zone with alarming regularity. India, who would need every advantage they can possibly get, would be hoping that Flintoff flunks the test.
This is being written after Rahul Dravid met with the media and informed everyone that India might have to deal with a double blow even before the start of Sunday’s game.
Zaheer Khan is almost certainly out. Zaheer, who twisted his ankle while batting at Old Trafford, did not take part in the practice on Saturday and preferred to be monitored by physiotherapist John Gloster.
Dravid made it clear that Zaheer would not be stretched in Sunday’s match. “He is being monitored by the physio,” said Dravid. “And he has shown considerable improvement in the last 24 hours. But we will wait till tomorrow morning before making a final decision.”
If Zaheer is ruled out, Ajit Agarkar will have to spearhead India’s pace challenge. “Ajit got his rhythm back on Thursday,” agreed Dravid. “It shows that the more you bowl, the easier it will be to get into a good rhythm.”
Ganguly skips nets
The other major worry at the moment is Sourav Ganguly. The former Indian skipper, a game shy of 300 ODI appearances, skipped nets. “Sourav is unwell, so he stayed back in the hotel,” said Dravid. “But he will hopefully be alright.”
He should be worried though, if two experienced players are out. Still, he kept up an optimistic face. “It’s difficult but not impossible,” he said. “All the games have been close.”
Yet, anyone who’s watched the games would say that while England have looked like flying faster, stronger, higher, India are looking like a faded bunch that is barely hanging in there. The zip is lacking in the field and the punch is lacking at the end, something that was exemplified by their failing to close out Thursday’s game, even after having England on the mat at 114/7.
And even though Dravid (who, by the way, might put himself at No. 3 instead of Karthik) stoically maintained that the loss was “disappointing” but hadn’t “damaged the morale in any way,” it seems more bravado than anything at the moment.