Expect a Rajkot run-fest
Neither India nor England are heading into their five-match ODI series having enjoyed ideal preparation with both sides struggling for form in limited overs cricket and each with bowling attacks severely lacking in experience at the highest level.
England reached a real peak in confidence after winning the test series against their hosts before Christmas but since then things have changed fairly dramatically. The usual change in personnel between test and 50-over contests has occurred, but what the side is not used to is a change in coach and for the first time since 2009 the side are listening to the instructions of a new man in the shape of Ashley Giles.
The new limited overs England coach doesn’t look to have made too many radical changes to the side early in his international coaching career but he has not had the greatest start with his team losing both their warm-up matches against India A and Delhi which is a little embarrassing ahead of the main event which starts on Friday morning.
There were positives to take from the contests, most notably a century for Ian Bell in the second match, but a massive negative was the bowling performance. Both Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann are being rested for this series meaning a lot more pressure is on the shoulders of the likes of Steven Finn and Jade Dernbach and they were not at their best in the warm-up bouts. Of all the bowlers against Delhi only part-time off-spinner Joe Root managed an economy of under 5.00 and that is not an encouraging sign going into face what is potentially a potent India batting line-up.
Finn must step up to the plate, as must Tim Bresnan who is one of the more experienced players in the team now and if James Tredwell is to play, which looks likely, he will have to at least keep things tight if not pick up many wickets.
The performances of rookie Stuart Meaker and the sometimes unpredictable Jade Dernbach could prove pivotal to England’s chances. If they are at their best then both can do a lot of damage, but at Meaker’s pace if he is wayward he will be very costly and if Dernbach’s slower balls are picked he will be demolished as well.
Even more pressure will be on India’s attack though with the inexperienced seam pair of Shami Ahmed and Bhuvneshwar Kumar likely to play and at their rather sedate pace the accuracy will need to be there against the likes of Alistair Cook and Kevin Pietersen or they will be in trouble.
Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin are the key to the Indian attack and if they can keep the England batsmen pinned down then the hosts have every chance of prospering. Their performances with the ball compared to those of Tredwell and Samit Patel for England could be the difference.
In the batting department, India still just about edge it although not all their big names have shown great form of late. The likes of Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj and Dhoni all have the capabilities to take the game away from England whilst only really Pietersen and Morgan can do so for the tourists.
England’s ODI record in India is shocking having won only one of their last 18 matches in the country and their only appearance in Rajkot previously saw them lose by a whopping 158 runs in 2008. The result won’t be as one sided this time but India have to be considered favourites with history firmly on their side.
Getting some value out of the contest may be tough but a decent looking bet is Ian Bell to be England’s top batsman. He will be opening the innings so will have ample opportunity to accumulate runs and his 108 against Delhi proves he is in fine touch. He will always be behind Alistair Cook and Pietersen in the odds which gives us the tempting price of 7/2 with a number of bookies.
There have not been a great deal of international matches played at Rajkot but there have been some high scoring ones and with the inexperienced nature of the attacks this could be a bit of a run-fest for both teams. The last match played at this ground saw both India and Sri Lanka score over 400 and whilst that would be a miracle to be repeated we might well get around the 300 mark for each team. This would make a century almost a certainty and at 6/4 with Ladbrokes for there to be a three-figure score in the match there looks to be plenty of value there.
Expect a Rajkot run-fest