IND v ENG: Both sides renew rivalry at refurbished Eden

The Eden Gardens welcomes two of the best batting outfits on current form to try out a new surface that has been laid recently at the more than 150-year-old venue.

Virat Kohli, who has already notched up his first ODI series win as captain, will look to finish the series 3-0.   -  REUTERS

The Eden Gardens welcomes two of the best batting outfits on current form to try out a new surface that has been laid recently at the more than 150-year-old venue. Despite the fate of the series being decided – with India taking an unassailable 2-0 lead – there was no dearth of interest surrounding the conceptually “inconsequential” encounter.

The surge in interest may have emanated from the keenness with which the two sides have battled out the three-match series that has already seen more than 1,400 runs scored in two matches. As the scene shifts to one of the most celebrated centres of cricket, the prospect of another absorbing contest gains consequence.

The Eden Gardens surface underwent a complete makeover last season with both the grass and the soil undergoing the alteration ahead of the T20 World Cup last year.

According to the groundsmen tending the surface, this will be the right time to assess the transformation as both the re-laid soil base and the Bermuda grass have settled down to the conditions. Those who have worked on the surface feel that the new track will see Eden Gardens offering even assistance to both the batsmen and the bowler, in a break from its age-old avatar as a slow turner.

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There is every reason for the fans to expect another run feast going by the way batsmen from both teams have played. India has dominated the visiting team on every count so far with Kohli leading the charge with his exceptional batting, first in the Tests and then in the limited-overs format. Kohli skipped the ‘optional practice’ session on Saturday but the ‘old guard’ that fetched India the win in the previous match at Cuttack – Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh – had a serious workout.

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Dhoni, who relinquished captaincy just ahead of the series, returned to his imperious form with the bat just when the team needed his support. The overflowing galleries at the Barabati Stadium (Cuttack) were treated to some classic vignettes as Yuvraj joined Dhhoni in scripting a record partnership of 256 runs with both scoring centuries.

The resurrection happened more for Yuvraj, who made a spectacular comeback as he notched up his highest ever score and his first century after the 2011 World Cup. With the new creed of all-rounders — Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya — giving solidity and strength to the team, Virat Kohli may look to wrap up his first series as the limited-overs captain with an all-win record.

There may even be a possibility, which will be determined by the merit of the wicket, that Kohli may consider rotation in the roster by the trying out the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey or Amit Mishra, who have missed the series so far.

England has shown admirable application in the batting department with Jason Roy, Joe Root and its captain Eoin Morgan showing fine form. But what the visitor failed to assess in the sub-continent is the need for variety in the bowling department, especially the use of ‘slower ball’ which can be a big weapon on the flat tracks offered here so far.

The bowling, led by pacer Chris Woakes, has not been able to come to terms with the need of the situation helping the host overhaul the targets on all occasions. With the Eden Garden pitch promising to offer the pacers some ‘purchase’, England may well think of getting a win ahead of the upcoming T20I series.