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India and England line up for a compelling face-off

S. Dinakar

Weather holds the key as both teams ponder over team composition with an eye on the conditions


BALLET DANCER-LIKE:Kevin Pietersen shows off some of his agility during the practice session at Chinnaswamy Stadium on the eve of England's match against India.

Bangalore: Will the crepuscular rays of spirit-lifting cricket make spectacular viewing at the arena on a Sunday when cloud cover and thundershowers might otherwise darken the ambience at the Chinnaswamy Stadium?

Sport is essentially atavistic in nature, and aggression pays. And any platform that features Virender Sehwag and Kevin Piertensen will not be short of firepower. Sehwag can pound the quicks with his quick-batted, stand-and-deliver stuff. Pietersen has the footwork of a ballet dancer. Their methods are contrasting but intent similar.

The India-England Group ‘B' World Cup face-off is a compelling one. Though it is advantage India on home turf, the pressures of the occasion could impact the teams.

Despite shortcomings in its bowling against the Netherlands, this English side is not a turgid outfit like some of the earlier teams from the Old Blighty that visited the sub-continent.

The World Cup is a vertiginous mountain to conquer for a side that has never triumphed in the competition. However, Andrew Strauss and his men are a bunch of cricketers who can lift their performances.

The pitch for the match had a sprinkling of grass, but, then, how much of it remains on the surface before the 2.30 start in the afternoon remains to be seen.

Interestingly, this is the same surface where the Indian spinners tormented the Australian batsmen in the warm-up match ahead of the championship.

There was sufficient purchase for the spin attack, particularly leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, in a duel that India won.

Two spinners?

Much focus will be on the composition of the Indian attack. Paceman S. Sreesanth had a terrible outing against Bangladesh in the opener. Another seamer, left-armer Ashish Nehra, is a doubtful starter with a sore back.

Ideally, India should play two specialist spinners but this could depend on the conditions. If clouds rule and the possibility of a rain-truncated match looms, then India might re-think its strategy. The dynamics of a shortened game are different.

Skipper M.S. Dhoni dwelt on the pros and cons of fielding a second spinner at the expense of a third paceman. “It's a tempting gamble,” the India captain admitted.

Weather does hold the key. If the atmosphere is heavy then James Anderson could make early inroads with his two-way swing. The Englishman, though, has to rediscover his precision.

Tim Bresenan, a capable swing bowler, has to regain the accuracy that deserted him against the Netherlands. He is a bustling customer who can pose searching questions to the batsmen with his movement and line.

Stuart Broad, a hit-the-deck paceman who relies on bounce and off-stump line, is expected to hustle the Indian line-up with lifting deliveries. In fact, England could employ Broad against Sehwag — the ploy would be to target the marauding opener with short, rising deliveries. Traditionally, there has been a fair amount of carry for the bowlers — the spinners too relish the bounce — at the venue here.

And Graeme Swann could influence the middle overs with his flight, dip and spin. England might include a second spinner in left-armer Michael Yardy for Ravi Bopara. Yardy is an effective late middle-order batsman too.

Indeed, England bats deep. It has batsmen in skipper Strauss and Jonathan Trott who can anchor the innings and possesses more destructive options, including the inimitable Pietersen and Matthew Prior.

The Indian attack has to bowl in combinations — this was lacking against Bangladesh — and create the pressure. Irrespective of who operates, control has to be the essential element. The home fielding needs to pick itself up as well.

Of course, India has the batting firepower — Sehwag will be the turret — to demolish bowling line-ups in these conditions.

According to the locals, dew may not be a significant factor at night. India might be better off setting a target. But then, if rain is imminent before the start of the match, chasing could be a better idea to cope with the Duckworth and Lewis equations.

The teams (from): India: M.S. Dhoni (captain), V. Sehwag, S. Tendulkar, G. Gambhir, V. Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Y. Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, P. Chawla, Zaheer Khan, M. Patel, S. Sreesanth, A. Nehra, S. Raina, R. Ashwin.

England: A. Strauss (captain), K. Pietersen, J. Trott, I. Bell, P. Collinwood, M. Prior, M. Yardy, S. Broad, G. Swann, T. Bresnan, J. Anderson, R. Bopara, J. Tredwell, L. Wright, A. Shahzad.

Match starts at 2.30 p.m .

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