As India faces England in the second One-Day International at the Barabati Stadium here on Thursday, the middle-order affluence has emerged as a delightful problem for skipper Virat Kohli.
If the top-order fails to fire, Yuvraj Singh steps in. If M.S. Dhoni fails, then Kedar Jadhav comes in. If they leave the job at the threshold of a victory, then Hardik Pandya accomplishes it. And, you have batsmen like Ajinkya Rahane and Manish Pandey warming the bench.
Jadhav’s blistering 120 in a pressure situation and Pandya’s clinical unbeaten 40, apart from Kohli’s astonishing 122, in the first one-dayer has provided the home team a bright start.
It has offered Kohli, who had welcomed old war-horse Yuvraj to share Dhoni’s burden of completing run chases, plenty of options for the finisher’s job.
India is in an upbeat mood after notching up one of its finest ODI wins in Pune and the magnitude of the recovery — from being 63 for four to chase down 351 with almost two overs to spare — makes it even sweeter.
The biggest positive for the host was the mindset of its low-key players. Their willingness to shoulder responsibility and rise to the occasion must serve as a tremendous morale-booster to all.
It will be interesting to see whether Kohli will tinker with the middle-order here. Or create a place for Rahane in the opener’s slot. The hard surface may tilt the selection in favour of strokeplayers.
The profligate bowlers, who gave away 115 runs in the last 10 overs, need to be more disciplined. Pace ace Umesh Yadav and company should enjoy the bounce while plying their trade. The Mahanadi breeze may assist swing bowling.
Even though it will not be an easy decision to disturb the combination of R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, leg-spinner Amit Mishra may be considered to exploit the bounce.
The presence of only Dhoni, Rahul and Rahane at the match-eve practice session indicated that the combination may not be altered much.
England should draw confidence from its solid batting display in Pune and look to replicate it here. It has able strikers in Jason Ray, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali.
Hit Kohli with short stuff
The visiting side, which has variety in its pace attack consisting of Chris Woakes, David Willey, Jake Ball and Stokes, cannot take anyone in the Indian batting order for granted after the stunning fightback the other night. Nevertheless, it may be tempted to treat Kohli with some short stuff.
England captain Morgan has to examine his choices in the spin department.
The dew factor and the lack of enough practice time at Barabati may pose some challenges to the teams. An Indian victory will give the host another series triumph, while an England win will keep the tourist’s interests and the series alive.
The teams (from): India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), M.S. Dhoni (wk), Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav.
England: Eoin Morgan (Capt.), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler (wk), Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey and Chris Woakes.
Umpires: Ruchira Palliyaguruge and Anil Chaudhary; Third umpire: Kumar Dharmasena; Match Referee: Andy Pycroft.