If one looks at the scorecard of the series, one would really feel bad for England, who are 0-2 down in the three-match contest. England posted 350 in the first match batting first, and blasted 366 in the second game. Yet, they ended up losing both matches. The numbers clearly show that they were unlucky. But, one must give credit to India as well, since they were able to overcome the tough challenges thrown at them by the Englishmen. As the teams step into Eden Gardens on Sunday, India will be looking for a clean sweep, and the visitors their first win of the series.
Although the series has been won, there are still some issues that India have to sort out. The opening pair is a definite concern. Both Lokesh Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan have failed in the two games. With the fate of the series decided, it wouldn’t be surprising to see India bring in Ajinkya Rahane, who is waiting in the wings, for either one of them. Dhawan’s place is under greater threat since Rahul has scored runs in the Tests against the same opponent. If given a chance, Rahane would be keen to make a mark since Rohit Sharma will walk in when fit.
India’s bowling is another big worry for the hosts. Although the pitches have been completely batting friendly, the Indians still have some work to do on the department. Apart from left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, all the bowlers have gone for plenty of runs. Ravichandran Ashwin claimed three wickets in the high-scorer at Cuttack, but he was attacked by the English batsmen as well. It remains to be seen whether leggie Amit Mishra gets a chance on Sunday. In the pace department, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar need to lift their game. Hardik Pandya has batted well, but his bowling remains inconsistent.
Like India, England have also failed in the bowling department. Of course, credit must be given to the Indian batsmen who carted them to all parts of the ground. Indian skipper Virat Kohli and Kedar Jadhav got fantastic hundreds in the first match as India chased down 350 while Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni raised their game as India found themselves under pressure at Cuttack. Chris Woakes was brilliant in the second match with four wickets, including three in the first five overs. But, the trio of Jake Ball, Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes went for just too many.
England have been dealt a blow in the batting department as well. The injured Alex Hales has been ruled out of the remainder of the tour with a fractured hand. His place is likely to be taken by Sam Billings, who did well in the warm-up match. If they can sort out their bowling, their batting form is good enough to test India. England skipper Eoin Morgan almost pulled off the improbable at Cuttack. Among others, Jason Roy and Joe Root have also been in great form. England just need to find their right balance.
--By A Cricket Analyst