Down, but not out: Can Eng strike back?

Considering India's great run so far, it will be a tough ask for Eng to avoid a series loss, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Apr 02, 2006 13:43 IST

The young England captain Andrew Flintoff must be a lonely man today. After a tremendous victory in the Mumbai Test less than ten days ago, Freddie's team could well have been 2-0 up in the ODI series. Afterall, they cleaned up the Indian top order in both the ODIs, sending India's best five back before the scoreboard registered 100 at Delhi and Faridabad. On the other hand, England batting, spearheaded by dashing Pietersen, looked good till it crumbled.

It must have hurt that England failed to chase a modest target of 204 at Delhi, and then failed to get past the Indian lower-middle order at Faridabad.

Watching Flintoff in the post-match conference after the second ODI did make one feel sorry for the great man. An expressionless, motionless persona, still recovering from the shock of two matches gone woefully wrong. One wondered if he was planning to skip his dinner!

When some tremendous performances do not translate into result, even an otherwise unruffled skipper has reasons to look worried. The English press, which on the eve of the series was singing paeans to the master allrounder and advocating his case as one-day captain, looks to have been silenced. Vaughan, in England, can feel relieved, though sorry at the plight of his mates!

Now, can England make a comeback and win the series? What are the negatives in the Indian side they can benefit from, and what positives they can take to succeed in the series.

The Indian Top order

At this juncture, the Indian top order looks more capable of bowling some good spells than batting past the first 25 overs. Was not Yuvraj splendid at Delhi with the ball? Their batting form, or lack of it, should give Flintoff's men some hope.

India's Top-5 partnerships v bottom-5
(After the first two matches of the series)

Partnerships  Runs/wkts
 Top 5 17.20
 Bottom 5 43.50

The under-fire openers Sehwag and Gambhir were involved in a solid half-century partnership at Faridabad, but then played some forgettable shots. The Indian lower order has flourished more than the more celebrated upper order in the last two matches, and that will encourage England.

Clueless Kaif

Kaif must have given England nightmares after his splendid century for the RCA President Eleven. His superbly struck 119 in a match where no other Indian crossed 50, were mainly responsible for pushing England on the backfoot even before the start of the ODI series.

But then he himself put those nightmares to sleep with some pathetic display!

A total of four runs from two innings only shows that Kaif's bad ODI form is continuing. Nothing illustrates better than his last ten innings.

Kaif in last 10 innings

RunsAvg 100/50
Last 1-5  92.25 0
 6-10 8421 0

England will hope that Kaif carries the burden of his most recent knocks into the rest of the series.

Flattering to deceive

Will somebody tell Yuvraj to hurry up, take a plane to Pakistan and get back his form just in time for the Goa encounter! The Indian batsman was simply sensational in Pakistan and went on to make a world record for the highest aggregate in a bilateral-ODI series against the arch-rivals.

Yuvraj Records Highest aggregate (In last ODI series against Pakistan)

Yuvraj Singh3442005-06172.001/2
R Richardson3211987-8880.250/4
R Dravid3082004-0551.331/2
A Jones2741988-89137.000/4
N Knight2641996132.002/0
MS Dhoni2612004-0543.501/0
V Richards2601985-8686.670/3

But a series against England is no subcontinent Ashes. The Punjab batsman has breached 20 in just one of the five innings he has played in two Tests and Two ODIs. In just about one and a half month, another future captain's form has taken a big knock.

Indian pace attack

The pace attack which flourished with gusto in Pakistan, looks to have lost its winning edge in the more familiar terrain. RP (in one match) and Sreesanth have not been effective at all. Pathan was deadly in the first match and economical in the second, and that was all the pacers could achieve. And that is simply not enough.

Flintoff will hope that the Indian pacemen continue to flounder. If English batsmen can tackle the likes of Shane Warne and bring back the Ashes, Harbhajan, though one of world?s greatest off-spinners, is certainly not unplayable. At least in the ODIs. As the series wears off, Flintoff?s batsmen will probably have the measure of the turbunator.

Top Order

England?s top order is not what it seems now ? brittle. Though one bad shot may have cost them a match at Delhi. Each time, the top order has given them a good start, which was frittered away by the middle and lower middle order batsmen.

Kevin Pietersen does not look like getting out, till he gets out. However, the likesof Shah, Collingwood and Jones must apply themselves a little more. They can'thope for Strauss, Pietersen and Flintoff to cover the lost ground on their own.

To be honest, it will be a tough ask for England to avoid defeat in this series. Next to impossible considering India's great run so far.Only once have England taken four matchesfrom India in India, and that was in 1984-85 when they beat the hosts 4-1.

In all likelihood, England are not going to get four this time, buta 3-4 or 2-5 defeat will be far more acceptable to the British Press, rather than 1-6 drubbing, or 0-7 mauling.

First Published: Apr 02, 2006 13:43 IST