Champions Trophy preparation on India’s mind ahead of final ODI against England (Preview)

Kolkata, Jan 21 (IANS) Ironing out deficiencies and building on a formidable squad will be top of the agenda when India take on England in their last One Day International (ODI) ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy at the Eden Gardens here on Sunday.

The three-match rubber has already been pocketed by Virat Kohli’s men in blue who have won the first two matches at Pune and Cuttack.

But with there being no 50-over engagement before June when the Champions Trophy gets underway in England, coach Anil Kumble and captain Kohli will have a final chance to assess the squad before they get into whites again for the one-off Test against Bangladesh and then the four-match series against Australia.

The hosts have played like a well-oiled machine so far in the series whether chasing or batting first.

If in the first tie, it was Kohli’s turn to lead from the front in a 351-run chase along with Kedar Jadhav stepping up; the second offing was all about deja vu as seasoned campaigners Yuvraj Singh (150) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (134) jogged back time with a sublime 256-run stand for the fourth wicket.

The duo, important cogs in India’s 2011 World Cup winning wheel, dragged India out of a hole with vintage batting displays after joining hands with the team tottering at 25/3 batting first.

In England, where pitches would not be conducive to batting as it was in these two games, the experience of Dhoni and Yuvraj could come in handy.

In the first ODI in Pune, Jadhav came of age batting at No 6 when the team was reeling at 63/4 to score a brilliant hundred with some shots, as Kohli would later put it, being out of the ordinary.

Kohli, too played a masterly innings, one which is so typical of India’s finest batsman in current times, to notch up his 27th ODI ton and 17th in a run chase.

The bone of contention is the opening slot where both Shikhar Dhawan and K.L. Rahul have failed to get runs.

While Dhawan has a nagging finger injury that might keep him out of the third ODI, Rahul will have to better his showing if he wants to keep his place for the Champions Trophy.

Rohit Sharma, who is usually preferred to open the batting in the shorter format, is out injured. Ajinkya Rahane is India’s another option but poor form in the last series against New Zealand at home is the reason the elegant right-hander is yet to be drafted in the first XI.

On Sunday, Rahane could get a chance to stake a claim in the side. Besides Dhawan’s injury issue, the southpaw, in all fairness, has been enduring a lean patch with scores of 1 and 11 in the last two ODIs.

India’s bowling battery came to the fore in the last ODI when while defending 381, England captain Eoin Morgan looked in inspiring form along with Moeen Ali, threatening to pull off a memorable win.

Spin hotshot Ravichandran Ashwin translated his Test form in ODIs as well picking up three wickets which included the priced scalp of Morgan to all but seal the deal.

For the tourists, it hasn’t been all downhill with their batsmen showing enough resolve to take the challenge to India. Besides Morgan, opener Jason Roy, the highly rated Joe Root and all-rounder Ben Stokes have played well.

What has let them down though is their bowling which is thin on experience especially on sub-continent conditions.

On Sunday, the visitors would like to end the ODI series on a high with just pride to play for, and get into T20 mode with their tails up.

The pitch at the Eden is expected to be a high-scoring one bereft of any grass. With the arena being much bigger compared to Pune and Cuttack, the competition could be tougher and with Kohli stating after the last game that there would not be any drop in intensity, it could be a fiercely contested tie despite there being little to play for in terms of the series.

–IANS

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