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Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowls at nets, faces fitness test ahead of final England ODI

India’s key pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar went full steam at the nets on Monday and will undergo a fitness test to prove fitness after a back niggle before the deciding final ODI against England at Headingley.

cricket Updated: Jul 16, 2018 20:26 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times, Leeds
India vs England,Indian cricket team,England cricket team
India's Bhuvneshwar Kumar in action during a nets session at Headingley Carnegie, Leeds, England on July 16, 2018 ahead of their 3rd ODI against England on Tuesday. (AP)

The sight of Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowling full throttle at the India nets on Monday would have lifted the mood in the camp as it should help sort out their death bowling issues.

But a big question mark over their middle-order batting has the visiting side stressed.

The terrific run of the top-order has often helped paper over the cracks but performance in the second game at Lord’s would have led to brain-storming by the captain and coaching staff.

At the start of the series, skipper Virat Kohli had listed getting the middle order sorted as one of the main goals in the limited-overs matches against England.

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He had switched to No 4 in the T20s to bolster it, but with him back at his usual No 3 slot in ODIs, KL Rahul is batting at No 4, Suresh Raina at No 5 and MS Dhoni at No 6.

It didn’t work at Lord’s and they will be desperate for the combination to come good in the final ODI on Tuesday with the series tied 1-1.

Assistant coach Sanjay Bangar said middle-order slots are up for grabs and batsmen like Ambati Rayudu, who missed this series after failing the mandatory fitness test, are very much in the running.

“We did change a bit in the T20 format, where KL batted at 3 and Virat at 4. Looking at this series, and the performances Virat has got at No 3, especially in the last series where he scored three 100s against South Africa in five games (he batted one-drop).

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“Going forward, there are still 16-17 games to go, we’re looking at them wherein we could look at settling the middle-order slots,” he said.

“Things are fluid at the moment. It’s not that a guy is only going to bat at a particular number. We’ll see the players available, their fitness.

“Rayudu was someone who can bat very well in the middle-order, but unfortunately he couldn’t clear the fitness test. But I am pretty sure going forward, if he passes the fitness test, he could also be a candidate.

“Lots of spots are open. The good thing about that is the bench strength we have in Rayudu, Manish Pandey and Ajinkya Rahane – there are enough spots for each and every eventuality we might face leading up to the World Cup.”

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According to Bangar, lack of opportunities down the order has been a reason behind India still not having a settled line-up.

“The way our top order is batting, our middle order hasn’t got the opportunities. At times, they straightaway walk into a game situation. Mind you, not all of them are playing all formats of the game, so you have to give some weightage to that,” said Bangar, who is also the team’s batting coach.

At Headingley, conditions generally help swing bowling and on Monday there was thick cloud cover when the teams trained.

India will be hoping their ace swing bowler Bhuvneshwar is fit for the game. “He’s in with a chance to play. He’ll have to go through some sort of a fitness test before we can confirm his availability for the game.”

First Published: Jul 16, 2018 20:17 IST