India looks to clear middle-order muddle

July 17, 2018 12:00 am | Updated 05:18 am IST - Leeds

A win in the decider will give Kohli’s men their 10th successive series triumph

Total commitment:M.S. Dhoni prepares for a net session at Headingley on Monday.APAnthony Devlin

Total commitment:M.S. Dhoni prepares for a net session at Headingley on Monday.APAnthony Devlin

Its middle-order frailties laid bare in the previous match, India will be aiming to plug the loopholes in Tuesday’s deciding final One-Day International against England, where a win will fetch Virat Kohli’s men their 10th successive series triumph.

Victory in London confirmed England’s spot as the No. 1 ODI side in the ICC rankings. A win for India at Headlingley will only help close the gap.

India has been on a high-flying streak. Going back to January 2016, when it last lost 4-1 in Australia, India has won every bilateral ODI series since, beating Zimbabwe, New Zealand (twice), England, West Indies, Sri Lanka (twice), Australia and South Africa, both home and away.

England has been found to be a bigger challenge in ODIs than T20Is.

In turn, it also highlighted India’s glaring weaknesses in the 50-over format, which are shielded to a certain degree in T20s.

England, meanwhile, has a chance to improve its record against India. But a victory will also approve plans ahead of the World Cup.

Bangar defends Dhoni

India’s assistant coach Sanjay Bangar on Monday came to Dhoni’s defence, saying losing wickets at regular intervals did not allow the veteran to play freely in the second ODI.

“With the combination we are playing, we do not have the depth at 8, 9 or 10 (the lower-order), and when you lose a couple of wickets, it becomes really difficult to bat with that sort of freedom. Due credit to England bowlers, they didn’t allow us to score any boundaries in that period and that was the reason the run rate kept climbing up,” Bangar said.

“Dhoni was just hoping someone would bat with him and we were just hoping he could bat till the 40th over and take the bowlers on. But, every time he looked to do that, we lost wickets and then there was no batting to follow for him to do the usual stuff he does.”

Bangar added India’s batting line-up is still a work in progress as the middle-order needs to spend more time at the crease.

“The way our top-order is batting and doing the bulk of the scoring, the middle-order hasn’t got the opportunities. At times, the players straightaway walk into game situation. Mind you, not all of them are playing all the formats. So you have to give some thought about that,” Bangar said. “Coming straight to international cricket and doing the sort of things you are expected to do is tough.

“Going forward, there are still 16 to 17 games to go, we’re looking at the games remaining wherein we could look at settling the middle-order slots. I am pretty sure that things are fluid at the moment.”

The teams (from):

England: Eoin Morgan (Capt.), Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Joe Root, Jake Ball, Liam Plunkett, Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, David Willey, Mark Wood and James Vince.

India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, K.L. Rahul, M.S. Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shreyas Iyer, Siddarth Kaul, Axar Patel, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur and Bhuvneshwar Kumar .

Match starts at: 5 p.m. IST.

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