India and England battle for group supremacy
Bangalore: Brimming with confidence after their emphatic win in the tournament-opener, India`s resilience and ability to handle pressure in crunch situations will be tested when they take on England in a high-voltage World Cup group-B league match on Sunday.
A win on Sunday will more or less guarantee India a place in the last eight stage with two victories from as many outings after having thrashed Bangaldesh by a 87 runs in their opening match of the mega-event in Mirpur last week.
Even though England too stand in a similar position with a win from their only outing, going by the present form and track record in the World Cup, Mahendra Singh Dhoni`s men clearly hold an edge over their English rivals.
While it was a superior performance by India against Bangladesh, the same cannot be said about England`s win over the Netherlands.
Riding on Virender Sehwag`s explosive 175 and Virat Kohli`s unbeaten 100, India avenged their 2007 shock loss to Bangaldesh, by piling up 370 for four on the board and then restricted the hosts to 283 for nine to start their campaign on a rousing note.
Skipper Dhoni would be hoping for a repeat performance from Sehwag and Kohli tomorrow but it won`t be easy for the duo as England possess a potent bowling attack, which would be eager to make up for their shoddy showing against the Dutch.
Champion batsman Sachin Tendulkar, who in all probability is playing in his swansong World Cup, and Gautam Gambhir both got starts against Bangladesh but failed to capitalize on them and would be desperate to score big against England.
Also, the fact that the famed Indian batting line-up had completely dominated the English attack in the Tests as well as ODIs during the latter`s tour in 2008 will act as a confidence booster for the home team.
However, going by head-to-head record in the World Cup, there is little to seperate the two sides with both winning three matches each against the other.
Overall, India have won 33 of their 59 World Cup matches (25 loss and one no result), while England recorded 37 wins (22 loss) from 60 matches.
Against England, India is expected to go with the same batting combination but a few changes are definitely in the offing in the bowling department, which continues to cause a few worries to skipper Dhoni, particularly the pace attack.
Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan needs consistent support from the other end if India has to contain the opposition batsmen in the first 10 over and at the death stage, which was absent against Bangladesh.
Zaheer`s new ball partner S Sreesanth came in for harsh treatment from the Bangladeshi batsmen as he went for 53 runs off his five overs, even though Munaf Patel gave a good account of himself with 4 for 48 from his 10 overs.
In all probability, Sreesanth will make way for Ashish Nehra, who missed the Bangladesh game due to a back spasm.
But it would be interesting to see whether India will be tempted to go with an extra spinner in Piyush Chawla, who claimed four wickets in the warm-up game against Australia here, though Dhoni has so far indicated that part-timer Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan would fill the slow bowlers’ slot.
But going into the match India has a few injury concerns. Sehwag hurt his left rib-cage at the nets yesterday while Yuvraj Singh was struck on the wrist on Thursday by a Sreesanth beamer.
The India team management, however, said that everything was fine in the team and both Shewag and Yuvraj are fit and expected to play tomorrow.
England, on the other hand, had reasons to worry about as they survived a close call against the Netherlands in the opening match.
Even though they won the match by six wickets, the Dutch gave England a run for their money. Riding on Ryan ten Doeschate`s brilliant 119, the Netherlands piled up 292 for six and if not for an inexperinced bowling attack, the Oranje side would have created the first upset of the tournament.
Nevertheless, the victory, coming after a 1-6 thrashing at the hands of Australia in the ODI series just before the World Cup, should be a pleasing one for England.
Inspite of the win, the Netherlands` game came as a timely warning for the erring English players to pull up their socks and not to repeat the same mistakes against India tomorrow.
The memories of the 0-5 thrashing by India during the 2008 tour, which was cut short by Mumbai terror attacks, must also be haunting England ahead of the match.
England batsman Ravi Bopara has already admitted that tomorrow`s match against India was one of their toughest in the World Cup.
"This is one of our toughest challenges in this tournament. We know what the Indian batsman are capable of but we do have our plans to keep them quiet.
"Every match is big for us. Even the game the other night was also big for us. But against India in India is going to be huge," Bopara had said.
Star batsman Kevin Pietersen, in his new role as opener, started off well and together with Strauss gave a solid start against the Dutch adding 105 runs for the opening wicket.
Against India, Pietersen would be vital to England`s success since he can destroy any bowling attack to shreds on his day.
The English middle order would revolve around Ian Bell, Bopara and Paul Collingwood, who made useful unbeaten 30 against the Netherlands the other day.
But the one thing which would be matter of concern for Strauss is his pace bowling department which was found lacking the teeth against the Dutch.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad conceded 137 runs between them in their quota of 20 overs and such a mediocre bowling will come as a feast to the likes of Sehwag.
Graeme Swann, who has recovered from a back problem he suffered during the recent Ashes series, will spearhead England`s spin attack. He seemed to have already started enjoying bowling in the sub-continent conditions as he returned with impressive figures of two for 35 from his 10 overs against the Dutch.
The India-England match has already generated a lot of heat after the ICC shifted the tie out of Kolkata`s historic Eden Gardens due to the venue`s unpreparedness.
If that was not enough, the lathi-charge on ticket buyers outside the M Chinaswamy stadium by the Bangalore police has added more spice to the already hot affair.
The Chinnaswamy pitch is billed to be a good batting wicket and the team which wins the toss is expected to bat first and set the opposition an imposing target.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, S Sreesanth, Piyush Chawla, R Ashwin, Ashish
England: Andrew Strauss (captain), Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Graeme Swann, Luke Wright, James Tredwell, Michael Yardy, Chris Tremlett.
Match starts at 1430 hrs (IST).