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Goa ODI: Indian spinners hold key

India would like to see their frontline batsmen come to party as they seek to sew up 7-match series against England.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2006 01:01 IST

India would be keen to see their frontline batsmen come to party as they seek to widen the 2-0 lead and virtually sew up the seven-match series when they take on England in the third one-day international at this coastal resort city of Goaon Monday.

The home team is riding the crest of a splendid run in the limited overs game with the four-wicket victory in the second ODI being their sixth on the trot going back to the Rawalpindi tie against Pakistan on February 11.

In fact they have lost only four times in their last 20 matches, which indicates consistency as well as confidence.

But both the Indian victories in the current series have not been as convincing an effort as those against Pakistan were.

They were mostly stuttering efforts and the home team would be eager not to leave things open till the end on Monday, as was the case at Delhi and Faridabad.

The main concern has been the top order that has not been performing with efficiency against a largely inexperienced attack.

Especially worrisome have been the performances of openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.

Both these Delhi batsmen have got starts in the two innings of the series but then have thrown their wickets away due to indiscretion.

Sehwag's swashbuckling ways have fetched the 27-year old star batsman over 4,000 runs and seven centuries in 143 matches.

But only one of these three-figure knocks has come in the last 64 matches, and that was exactly one year ago to this day against Pakistan at Kochi's Nehru Stadium.

Sehwag has crossed 50 three more times in this span of time without reaching the hundred and in most other innings he has got a start only to falter through impetuosity.

He, more than anyone else, realizes this and would be eager to get out of this big innings drought.

Gambhir, who came into the team in place of Sachin Tendulkar, too has got starts and looked good for bigger scores only to fritter them away due to poor shot selection.

The Delhi batsman's place in the team is at stake now, having just one century and an innings of 71 to his credit in 16 matches till date at a modest average of 25-plus.

The two significant innings he has played have come in his first six matches after which he has not reached 40.

The home team, however, should be mightily pleased with the way 19-year-old Suresh Raina soaked up the pressure and played an innings of maturity in Faridabad to show in clear terms that he's among the players for the future.

The Indians would be praying that their openers do not throw away another good beginning here on a newly laid strip shorn of grass and sporting some cracks.

But England too have failed to tackle the Indian slow bowlers Harbhajan Singh, Ramesh Powar and Yuvraj Singh on what seems to be yet another spin-friendly surface.

The visitors have not been too confident in the way they have gone about it and could come a cropper again if they rely on only the slog sweep as a way to get out of trouble.

If Harbhajan was the hero of the victory with his splendid, career-best haul of 5-31 at Delhi, Powar showed his calibre when given the chance at Faridabad by taking 3-34.

England's hopes of thwarting the spin threat would rest on the broad shoulders of captain Andrew Flintoff and the South African-born Kevin Pietersen.

Andrew Strauss has given England a big relief with his innings of 61 in the second ODI and he, apart from Flintoff and Pietersen, has the ability to pull the innings together.

England definitely missed a second spinner going by the way Ian Blackwell had performed in the first two ties.

The Nehru Stadium does not hold fond memories for India who have lost all the three matches they have played at this venue.

Two of those defeats had come against Sri Lanka and they lost the last tie in 2001 by four wickets to Australia who, thus, clinched the series 3-2.

That tie against Australia was also marred by a big ticket scam and police lathi-charge on genuine ticket holders with the stadium already jam-packed with fake ticket holders.

The teams (from):

India: Rahul Dravid (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mohd Kaif, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Ramesh Powar, Shantakumaran Sreesanth, Ajit Agarkar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Venugopala Rao, Munaf Patel.

England: Andrew Flintoff (captain), Matt Prior, Andrew Strauss, Owais Shah, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Geraint Jone (wk), Ian Blackwell, Liam Plunkett, Kabir Ali, James Anderson, Matthew Hoggard, Garreth Batty, Sajid Mehmood and Vikram Solanki.

Umpires: K Hariharan (Ind) and Asad Rauf (Pak).

Third umpire: I Shivram (Ind).

First Published: Apr 02, 2006 13:07 IST