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Rain shadow over fourth ODI

cricket Updated: Nov 22, 2008 23:47 IST
Subhash Rajta
Subhash Rajta
Hindustan Times
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What England needed was a bright and sunny day to pull them out from the low and depressing mood they must have been in after suffering three continuous defeats. Instead, they checked into cloudy, gloomy and raining Bangalore, completely in sync with their mood.

India, on the other hand, wouldn't have minded the weather at all, for the team is in high spirits, though the controversy over Mahendra Singh Dhoni's alleged threat to resign over a selection issue might have soured the atmosphere a touch.

The controversy notwithstanding India will again start favourites in the day-night Sunday encounter, provided rain doesn't play spoilsport. The skies opened up on Saturday afternoon, and it was still drizzling late in the evening, brining the match under dark clouds of uncertainty.

If the weather gods relent, England will need their impact players - Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff - to fire on all cylinders and save the remainder of the series from being reduced to games of merely academic interest. On the face of it, England have made a steady progression from being disgraced in the first ODI to almost catching up with India at Kanpur. Yet, they don't look a team which has the wherewithal to stop the cruising Indian juggernaut, especially if the two big guns remain silent.

England's other batsmen in the side can play a supporting role, but somehow none of them have shown the individual brilliance of singlehandedly winning a game. For instance, the likes of Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara and Shah got runs in the Kanpur ODI, but their contribution couldn't take England to an imposing total. And they will more often than not come up with similar contributions, good enough to lend respectability to the total, but not explosive enough to bat the opposition out of the game. That leaves the onus on the broad shoulders of Pietersen and Flintoff. The duo has to explode if England don't want to see a premature end to the series.

The Indian batting line-up, on the other hand, is replete with the impact players right from Gambhir-Sehwag pair to Yusuf Pathan down the order. As if this wasn't good enough Sachin Tendulkar has checked in, and that will only compound England's woes.

The balance sheet is not terribly different in the bowling department either. The Indian attack is better not only in terms of balance and variety, but perhaps better in matchwinning ability as well. For England, Flintoff has looked impressive as and when he decides to go all out. But it would be too much to ask him to do the job all the time without enough support from others. Apart from brushing up their batting and bowling, England will need to chalk out a strategy to handle the dew factor that could come into play in this day-night encounter, and avoid being caught on the wrong foot as with the fading light at Kanpur.