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India focus on death bowling, middle order in decider versus England

India and England lock horns in the final game of the three match ODI series at Headingley in Leeds on Tuesday. The series is tantalisingly poised 1-1.

cricket Updated: Jul 16, 2018 20:35 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times, Leeds
Virat Kohli,India vs England,England vs India
Virat Kohli’s men won the first ODI but lost the second one at Lord’s(REUTERS)

Headingley is set for a grand finish with the top two one-day sides, England and India, set for a winner-takes-all contest on Tuesday. The timing of the final tie couldn’t have been any better. It has been a series played under the shadow of two of the biggest events in sports – football World Cup and Wimbledon. Will all the big action ending on Sunday, for once in this English summer, cricket can hope to get undivided attention from fans, in India and England.

Never mind the results if the India and England teams had been asked their choice ahead of the series, this is exactly how they would have wanted the contests to unfold.

This is a match-up held with an eye on preparing for the main event to be held here next year, the World Cup. And this game is a test for the tag of favourites. There’s so much class and quality in both sides, but it’s the small details that need to be addressed before the mega event. Any weakness exposed now can be work on in the next 12 months.

PRESSURE GAME

One important aspect remains – pressure. And they are ensured of plenty of it in the decider. The games have thrown up issues for the teams to consider. India had been asking the questions, and now England have posed a few to them.

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India had left England with much to ponder about where they stood with the drubbing at Trent Bridge. England returned the favour at Lord’s.

In the title-decider, it will be about maintaining the confidence gained and sustaining their super runs. Since the start of 2016, England have won 10 straight series, and India nine. One team’s winning spree will be halted on Tuesday.

KULDEEP VS ROOT

The most fascinating battle at Leeds will be between local hero Joe Root and Kuldeep Yadav. For the first time in the series, India’s promising spinner will be under some pressure. He got three wickets at Lord’s, but wasn’t able to the make the kind of impact he would have liked to. Root’s approach against spin was refreshing as he displayed technique and temperament to win a personal battle against the chinaman bowler with a brilliant century. With the Yorkshireman playing at his homeground, England will look up to him for inspiration and runs. It is 2-1 to Kuldeep though, having got Root’s number at Trent Bridge and Old Trafford (1st T20). If he can get the main man again, it will become a different ball game.

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MAIN ISSUES

India’s biggest issues are a weak spine, the middle order, and death bowling. It will be their final chance to address it. KL Rahul, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni or Dinesh Karthik are the options being looked at. If things don’t fall into place at No 4 and No 5 in this game, they may have to look beyond these players. After his insipid effort in the chase at Lord’s, Dhoni will be hurting the most. It will be an opportunity to make amends. As for death bowling, India will be hoping their ace pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar reports fit.

Most of all, India owe it to the fans. They are the most entertaining team when on song but got it horribly wrong at the ‘Mecca of Cricket’ on Saturday. With the format struggling for relevance, India’s chase was a poor advertisement for the 50-overs game. They will not just have to perform well, but in some style.

First Published: Jul 16, 2018 20:31 IST