Mohali, Jan 23: Cold, windy conditions may help pace bowlers in crucial match as England look to strike back.
This small, laidback suburb of Chandigarh has woken up to the hum of activities in the last few days.
The road ribboning around the picturesque Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium is milling with people since morning and countless policemen dot the venue to keep a vigil. With India leading 2-1 in the series, the fourth one-day international between India and England here on Wednesday has gained prominence.
India, rapped for their dismal performance at home against England in Test series and Pakistan in the ODIs, would be desperate to seek some breather by sealing the series here. They have worked hard for it, clawing their way back from the defeat in the opening match at Rajkot, to win convincingly at Kochi and Ranchi. In the process, they have also gained the world No 1 ranking in ODIs.
The Englishmen, on the other hand, are keen to rediscover their winning touch that they had not many days ago. They believe they could do so again and would do everything to push the series to the wire.
They have already stated that Mohali has reminded them of home; the tourists seeking solace in its nippy wind and warm sunshine. They, though, would not like to be reminded of their last match at this ground -- October 2011. It was also the last ODI played here, and England had then lost by five wickets having scored 298 for four.
With the conditions assisting pacers, India would fancy their new ball bowlers — Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed — to come good again. Curator Daljit Singh called it a good one-day wicket with some carry, and admitted the cold weather could be a factor. Daljit also said the pitch, on which India took on Pakistan in the World Cup semifinal in early 2011, has been relaid.
Incidentally, the World Cup semifinal was also the last time Yuvraj Singh played at his home ground before being diagnosed with cancer. On Wednesday, he would be returning to play here for the first time post his recovery, and that would be an emotional moment for him.
Indian batting has fared better in this series but still look unsettled. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been the cog of batting in the last three outings and to add a modicum of comfort, Virat Kohli, who has been struggling for big runs of late, made an unbeaten fifty in the last match in Ranchi. But India need a solid start from their openers Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane, who failed both in Kochi and Ranchi after getting a bright start at Rajkot.
What has given India the edge is their new bowling faces Bhuvneshwar and Ahmed. In Ian Bell’s words, the two have “tested” the English batsmen while the contribution of Ravindra Jadeja, with the bat and ball, has been crucial.
At this moment England would do well to have a Jadeja of their own. Their batsmen have failed to put enough runs on the board, with the exception of the first match, and the new ODI rules have only added to their woes.
The form of Kevin Pietersen has also hurt England even though he was unlucky to be given out at Ranchi. It is likely that the struggling wicket-keeper batsman Craig Kieswetter would make way for Jos Buttler at No 6. The English seamers, led by Steven Finn, would be happy with the conditions, with the ball likely to move around.
But a confident India won’t mind that much. The criticism they have faced in the past few months has been cutting, even ruthless at times. Mohali, they know, offers an opportunity to seek redemption. At least for now!
Teams: India: MS Dhoni (Capt), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Bhuveshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Shami Ahmed, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Amit Mishra and Ashok Dinda.
England: Alastair Cook (Captain), Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Craig Kieswetter, Stuart Meaker, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler.
Umpires: Steve Davis (Australia) and Sudhir Asnani.
TV umpire: Shamshuddin.
Match Referee: Andy Pycroft (Zimbabwe)