Death overs a big worry for the host; England expects India to fight hard

As he slogged hard, running in and pushing out one fast delivery after another, his hair flying, one could see the anger in Ishant Sharma’s eyes.

A lot of heads have blamed the wiry paceman for India’s nine-run loss to England in the Airtel ODI Series opener at Rajkot last week and the 24-year-old appeared keen to make amends as the two teams got ready for Tuesday’s second round clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on a wicket that appears to be a batting paradise.

Bowling at the ‘death’ is a problem area for India, and the 38 runs gifted away by Ishant and Bhubaneshwar Kumar in the last two overs at Rajkot brought this to the fore once again.

But Gautam Gambhir would not blame his Delhi mate for the loss.

“We can always say the last two overs made the difference but it’s not the last two or the first five but how you play the 100 overs,” said Gambhir here on Monday evening. “If you play well till the 100th over, I think most of the time, the results will be in your favour.”

Clearly, the cricket against England the last few weeks, in the Tests and the recent ODI, has left India hurt and humiliated.

Willing to fight

But Gambir stressed that the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led team was willing to fight and turn things around.

“I think there’s a lot to go in this series, we’re just 1-0 down. It’s not that the series is over,” said Gambhir. “So I think every guy is motivated, we will try and do our best tomorrow.”

The last game showed that there is a lot of improvement in the Indian team after the series loss to Pakistan. The opening pair of Ajinkya Rahane and Gambhir nearly came up with a century-stand at Rajkot that gave the team a strong start.

And though the pace attack appears tame, the English pacemen, with many young heads, just appear a shade better. Rajkot clearly showed that.

While the Indians conceded 191 from 25 overs and picked two wickets, the English fast bowlers were not exactly accurate as they gave away 199 from 28 overs while taking five wickets. But none of them came in the early stages, their first scalp came only after the halfway mark, in the 26th over.

“There wasn’t a lot of difference in our bowling,” said Gambhir, “if you see if England managed to get 325, we also managed 315.”

Tredwell the difference

It was the English spinner James Tredwell who made all the difference.

The Indian team is likely to retain the same team which played at Rajkot which means that Cheteswar Pujara is not likely to make his ODI debut here.

There is an air of quiet assurance about the England team. Meticulous planning, focus on strengthening the mind and proper guidance for young players seem to be some of the areas the visiting team has worked on to push away the bitter memories of the 5-0 whitewash in the last two series.

Clearly, England sees this as a new beginning and the victory in the series-opener at Rajkot has proved that the team is moving in the right direction. And as the visiting captain Alastair Cook spoke of the unfinished business here, he also mentioned that it would be tough all the way.

“India is a world-class side in these conditions, that’s why I’m saying how hard it is to win this series,” said Cook on Monday evening. “We had a great start to the series, it was an important game to win but now we have to move on and hope we do the same here.”

Cook has led from the front and his strong opening stand with Ian Bell gave his team a huge advantage at Rajkot.

So, enjoy a cracker of a contest here.

The squads (from): India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Shami Ahmed, Rohit Sharma, Amit Mishra, Ashoke Dinda, Cheteshwar Pujara.

England: Alastair Cook (captain), Joe Root, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs, Joseph Buttler, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Craig Kieswetter, Stuart Meakar, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes.

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