For England, more than staying alive in the series, the thought of restoring their pride and confidence, which has taken a massive pounding, will be on top of their minds, reports Subhash Rajta.cricket Updated: Nov 20, 2008 02:02 IST
Statistically speaking, this is still not a must-win game for England to keep their series hopes alive. Psychologically, there will be few other games that they will want to win as desperately.
Yes, they are trailing 2-0 in the series, and it will be next to impossible to stage a comeback if they lose at Kanpur as well. But more than staying alive in the series, the thought of restoring their pride and confidence, which has taken a massive pounding, will be on top of their minds.
This English side had arrived with a refreshingly positive and confident attitude. The spunk and combativeness of their skipper seemed to have rubbed of on the team, and it definitely looked one of the better ODI units England have had for some time.
However, the brutal Indian assault has forced them into a 'we are improving' meekness from their challenging 'we aren't underdogs' assertion. The way India have dominated the series so far has certainly put a question mark on the reputation of the English team, and the skipper as well.
As for India, their confidence is sky high, so much so that three of their main players – Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag – skipped the (optional) nets today. "We are playing lot of cricket and we have lot of optional sessions. So the players wanting to skip the session and instead spending time in the gym or back in the hotel are welcome," said Dhoni.
What will boost their confidence and bowling is the recovery of Ishant Sharma from injury. The tall speedster bowled his heart out in a rather longish spell in the nets, indicating he was raring to go. "Ishant is available for tomorrow's game and we will go in with a full strength team, for 2-0 lead in seven-match series isn't a big cushion," said Dhoni.
As for batting, there's hardly anything to worry about. Even if England's bowlers manage to get past the dangerously consistent Sehwag-Gambhir duo once in a while, as they did in the last game, there is certain Yuvraj Singh, waiting with bated breath to feast on what appears to be his favourite bowling attack.
Clearly, this England attack will struggle to either contain or bowl out the marauding Indian batting line-up on a placid Kanpur track. The injury to Ryan Sidebottom also hasn't helped their cause, for he could have added some variety to this attack with his left-arm swing bowling. England may play Graeme Swann, the specialist spinner, but it won't be easy for him to test the Indian batsmen in his very first game.
Perhaps, the only the chance England have to cause an upset is by using the time-tested formula in this part of the world: win the toss, forget what wicket looks like and bat the opposition out of the game.