Desperate England seek upswing against rampaging India to keep semi-final hopes alive
Eoin Morgan's England need to win against India to keep their qualifying hopes alive. (AFP Image)

BIRMINGHAM: Up until a week ago, the India-England clash was supposed to be the marquee clash of the tournament. Two sides that were most audience’s favourites even before the World Cup started. Forget Australia, who are at the top of the table. No buzz about New Zealand either, who are one win away from joining Australia in the semi-finals. Everything was about India and England – the No 1 and 2 ranked sides in the world. ALSO READ: Virat Kohli unveils India’s “away” jersey

Yet, in a matter of four days, the entire complexion of the contest has changed drastically. India are on the brink of a place in the final four and England in a spot where they need to beat the best side in the world to keep their chances alive. How did it come down to this? Only England know. But in a tension-filled environment, where shots are being exchanged between current and former players, England can reinvent themselves to be the team which started this tournament as co-favourites. Win the next two and advance. But lose one and it appears tough.

The rain has subsided and the sun is out bright, but the real chill seems to be missing in the dressing room. Admit it or not, Eoin Morgan and his team are under extreme pressure. They need to beat India and later New Zealand to ensure they go through. If not, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka continue to breathe down England’s neck. Their problems are self-inflicted. On the traditional flat surfaces, they score, and score big. But whenever their batsmen are subjected to a surface which tests their technique and skills to adapt, they go down.

Then there is the absence of Jason Roy, who is still under scanner despite hitting the nets. James Vince has all but shut the doors on his one-day career. Without Roy, England’s top order has looked more vulnerable than India’s middle order, which further leaves Joe Root, Morgan, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes to apply ointment on a wound already beginning to scratch and itch.

There’s more than just the “away” jersey which India will bring to the table. Their bowling is such that in the last two games, their back-up bowler – Mohammed Shami has taken eight wickets. Though more than that, the way he has transformed himself into this mean, well-oiled fast bowling machine is what’s concerning for England. Partnering him is the No. 1 bowler in the world, Jasprit Bumrah.

Wristspinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have made it a habit to apply a squeeze in the innings and Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav give India the perfect fifth and sixth option. Such is strength of India’s formidable bowling unit that it can nullify the possibility of a middling outing with the bat. How do you top a side like that? England better have the answers to keep their dream alive.

What: England vs India, Match 38, ICC Cricket World Cup

When: Sunday, June 30, 2019

Venue: Edgbaston cricket ground, Birmingham

Time: 330PM IST

Weather: All the rain has subsided. With a heat wave approaching England, the temperature is supposed to be in the mid-20s with clear and bright skies.

Team News

India

Will Vijay Shankar retain his place in the Playing XI? As per Virat Kohli, a strong yes. In three innings, Shankar has scored 49 runs and while it may not be a number that you’d associate from India’s No. 4, Kohli feels he has looked positive in all three innings. Kohli also mentioned that sometimes it’s best “not to tinker” with combinations, dispelling doubts over the possibility of either Dinesh Karthik or Rishabh Pant replacing Shankar. Mohammed Shami will once again partner Jasprit Bumrah as Bhuvneshwar is said to be “recovering quickly”.

Probable XI: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Rishabh Pant, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

England

The biggest question for England is whether Roy is fit. He batted in the nets without looking in much discomfort and there is a strong belief within the team about his return. Jofra Archer did not bowl in the nets during England’s first practice and although Morgan is confident about Archer recovering in time, the final call on him will be taken on the day of the match.

Probable XI: 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Chris Woakes, 8 Moeen Ali, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Jofra Archer, 11 Mark Wood

Stats and Trivia

– Kuldeep will make his 50th ODI appearance in this match, he already has 91 wickets to his name and his career-best figures of 6/25 was achieved against England

– Dhoni has scored 1,504 runs against England in ODI cricket, he needs 20 more for the most by a batsman from either side in the history of this fixture

– Kohli has scored 243 ODI runs at Edgbaston and been dismissed just once before in five previous innings

Quotes

“We wouldn’t have been able to win the number of games we have, home and away, if we weren’t adaptable. That’s a skill of this team, to adapt and still play a way we want to do” – Jos Buttler doesn’t feel England are flat-track bullies

“Everyone is a bit surprised that we thought England is probably going to dominate in their own conditions, but pressure is always to be a massive factor to handle and low scores are going to be defended” – Virat Kohli is one of the many to be surprised by England’s existing status