Cricket

India out to seal series before experiments kick in


IPL 2018

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India’s win in the first ODI was set-up by the Indian spin trio of Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht and Deepti Sharma © BCCI

It’s a series with minimal consequences. There are no Championship points to be won, there is no World Cup looming and the focus this year is on a different format. It’s a bench strengthening exercise, at best. And yet, there could be some repercussions for the hosts.

Since the highs of a World Cup final appearance and a double series win in South Africa six months later, India have struggled to replicate that sort of success in home conditions when confronted with stronger opponents on flatbeds. Australia took both the ODI and T20I tri-series, leaving India with just one inconsequential win in seven home games this season.

But on the Nagpur track that provided assistance to the spinners – an area that has been India’s traditional strength – the home team got one up on England to claim the early lead in the three-match ODI series. The win comes as second wind for not just this Indian side but also the dwindling interests among the audience, who have got a two-month long distraction from all international action alike.

Smriti Mandhana might have bagged the Player of the Match award for her sixth fifty in seven innings across formats, but make no mistake, it was a game set-up by the Indian spin trio of Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht and Deepti Sharma, who shared nine of the ten English wickets between them. And that after the tourists were off to a flyer. Poonam picked three of her four at the top, in as many overs after the mandatory powerplay, and Bisht and Deepti packed up most in the middle and lower order cheaply.

If it wasn’t for Fran Wilson’s resilient 45 and Danielle Hazell’s 33 in the end, England would have struggled to post in excess of 150. The visitors clearly missed the stability of their regular skipper in the middle order. Heather Knight, who is still nursing her hamstring injury, has now missed the last two games on tour, both of which England lost. Stand-in skipper Anya Shrubsole, who was also returning from an injury, had an expensive outing on Friday.

Devika Vaidya, who became Mandhana’s fourth opening partner in seven games, couldn’t repeat her heroics from the warm-up game where she posted a comeback hundred against a near-similar attack.

Hazell’s double blow had India in a spot of bother but Mandhana notched up yet another fifty to resurrect the chase. However, she failed to close out the game, as Georgia Elwiss triggered a middle-order collapse reminiscent of the infamous one in the 2017 World Cup title clash. Sophie Ecclestone’s four-fer further reduced India to 190 for 9 in a chase of 208 but, unlike that evening in Lord’s, India’s last wicket pair of Poonam and Bisht pulled off a nail-biting finish in the final over.

India might look to rest the veterans – most-capped ODI player Mithali Raj and leading wicket-taker in the format Jhulan Goswami – at some point in the series but are likely to field a full-strength eleven on Monday in order to seal the series before launching any experiments. Veda Krishnamurthy, who has been at the receiving end of it, might be feeling the heat after a string of low scores since returning from South Africa.

When: Monday, April 9 at 9am IST

Where: Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur

What to expect: The pitch is on the slower side, this being the fag end of the domestic season, and the temperature is likely to soar to 40 degrees again on the match day.

Team News

India: All-rounder Pooja Vastrakar and opener Jemimah Rodrgiues were unlucky to miss out in the opening ODI because of the return of a veteran pacer, Goswami, and in-form Vaidya. However, the teenagers might now get a nod as India look to strengthen their batting after Friday’s collapse.

England: The visitors would be fretting over Knight’s injury, which has taken more than ten days now for recovery. Even though her replacement Elwiss had a good outing with the ball, England would be hoping to see their skipper back on her feet in time for the second game for her presence lends solidity to the batting order that disintegrated in the series opener.

Squads

India: Mithali Raj (c), Jhulan Goswami, Ekta Bisht, Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Shikha Pandey, Poonam Yadav, Sushma Verma (wk), Veda Krishnamurthy, Deepti Sharma, Devika Vaidya, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jemimah Rodrigues, Pooja Vastrakar, Dayalan Hemalatha

England: Danielle Hazell, Anya Shrubsole, Danielle Wyatt, Tammy Beaumont, Georgia Elwiss, Amy Ellen Jones (wk), Natalie Sciver, Fran Wilson, Alex Hartley, Sophie Ecclestone, Alice Davidson Richards, Heather Knight (c), Jenny Gunn, Natasha Farrant, Kate Cross, Bryony Smith, Katie George

© Cricbuzz

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