Ahmedabad: With a 2-0 lead in hand, India are firmly on course to record a second successive one-day series triumph at home as they take on West Indies in the third ODI of the five-match rubber at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium in Motera on Monday.
Although it has not been without some hiccups, the hosts look all set to hand out another defeat to the visiting side and take a winning 3-0 lead at the ground where they dethroned 2007 champions Australia on March 24 on their way to grabbing cricket`s most coveted crown ? the World Cup.
India, by all counts, are holding all the trump cards and should clinch the series unless they self-destruct or the Windies punch above their weight. A win tomorrow would give a consecutive series triumph to India after they mauled England 5-0.
The Virender Sehwag-led hosts have shown exemplary tenaciousness in the face of deep trouble to win the first two games of the series at Cuttack (by a narrow one wicket) and Vishakapatnam (by five wickets).
They struggled to overcome a very modest target of 212 set by the Darren Sammy-led Windies in the first ODI and then failed to deliver the knock-out blow when they had the visitors on the hop at 170 for 9 in the second match.
On the first occasion, Virender Sehwag and company had to be rescued by the last wicket pair of Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav who stitched a vital stand of 12 runs to pilot them across the finish line.
In the second game too India allowed Ravi Rampaul to smash a world record score for a no. 10 batsman, 86 not out in 66 balls with six sixes and as many fours, to help his team amass a challenging 269 after they were 170 for 9 through a fighting, unfinished last wicket stand of 99 with Kemar Roach who made 24 not out.
It needed a determined and tenacious stand of 163 runs between young guns Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to guide India to a victory after they were in difficulties at 84 for 3.
What must be pleasing to the home team`s management is that the victories had been achieved without significant contributions from the Big Two in the batting line-up - stand-in captain and opener Sehwag and no.3 Gautam Gambhir.
With Parthiv Patel too flopping badly at the top, India had to bank on Sharma`s consistency and Kohli`s return to form to shore up the middle and dig them out of difficulties in game two.
Sharma has had a very good run since his return to the team after the unfortunate first-ball injury he sustained in the ODI series in England that ruled him out of the return series.
The talented Mumbai batsman was in very good touch in the Caribbean and seems to have taken a liking to the Windies bowling attack.
Kohli, who was part of the Dhoni-led team that lifted the coveted World Cup in Mumbai on April 2, has also scored runs aplenty in ODIs this year.
The Delhi youngster has become the second-highest batsman after England`s Jonathan Trott with a tally of 1258 runs from 31 games at just over 46 with four centuries to boot, three of them in his last eight appearances.
In the absence of Sachin Tendulkar at the top and regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the end of the innings, as well as Yuvraj Singh, the batting has relied a lot on these two youngsters and it is time for the likes of Sehwag and Gambhir fire. To add to the batting woes of the hosts is the indifferent form of another fine finisher Suresh Raina, who has poor scores of 5 and 0 going into the third game.
The bowlers, too, have had a mixed bag, outstanding at Cuttack and expensive at Vizag where rookies Varun Aaron and Ravichandran Ashwin were brought down to the earth from their recent Test highs conceding 66 and 74 runs respectively.
It will be a challenging task for the duo tomorrow to put that forgettable display behind them and bowl as they are used to while the team management has the option of replacing Aaron with Abhimanyu Mithun.
Umesh Yadav seems to have carried forward his form in the Tests to the ODIs, his five wickets at an economical rate being a clear pointer, while Vinay Kumar too has done his bit along with left arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja. The West Indies batting has flopped, barring the odd spark. The top order has failed to fire in unison which has led to collapses.
A senior batsman like Marlon Samuels has scored only 14 runs so far at no. 3 while Darren Bravo showed his class in scoring 60 in difficult batting conditions at Cuttack before falling cheaply at Vizag. Lendl Simmons` 78 was a saving grace for the visitors before they were bailed out by the unexpected blitz from Rampaul.
Captain Sammy`s contribution itself had been very poor, a duck at Cuttack and 2 at Vizag. In bowling, Rampaul bowled his heart out at Vizag after missing the opening game while Roach has also been impressive, but the others have not risen up to the task against the strong and long Indian batting order.
It would be interesting, however, to see what the captain who wins the toss does in the third game after India`s Sehwag inserted the tourists in to bat in the first two matches, probably to factor in the effects of dew.
Night temperatures are yet to dip steeply in this textile city and experts reckon dew may not be that big an issue in the third game of the series.
The rival teams (from): India: Virender Sehwag (Capt.), Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Parthiv Patel, R Ashwin, Abhimanyu Mithun, R Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Rahul Sharma.
West Indies: Lendl Simmons, Adrian Barath, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Danza Hyatt, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Darren Sammy (Capt.), Andre Russell, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Anthony Martin, Sunil Narine, Kieran Powell, Jason Mohammed.