India versus England was among the most anticipated matches of the 2023 ODI World Cup. After all, it is the pre-tournament favourites (and the hosts) taking on the defending champions. But no one had imagined that England would be hanging by the thinnest of threads by the time this game would arrive.
With just one win from five games, England are lurking near the bottom of the points table. If they are to make it to the knockouts from here, every atom in this universe needs to work for them – there are that many permutations they need to go in their favour.
England seem to have already done what was in their control. They have tried all 15 players in the original squad, tried to play with no care in the world, and even left out their vice-captain for three out of five games. Nothing has worked.
India, on the other hand, have looked like the most complete team. With five wins in as many matches, they are the only unbeaten team in the tournament. They even defeated New Zealand ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/icc-cricket-world-cup-2023-24-1367856/india-vs-new-zealand-21st-match-1384412/full-scorecard), their bogey team at the ICC events, despite missing their most irreplaceable, two-in-one player Hardik Pandya.
The key to India’s success is how they start. Rohit Sharma ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/rohit-sharma-34102) has been setting the tone in the powerplay, striking at 134.01, while Jasprit Bumrah ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/jasprit-bumrah-625383) has been doing it with the ball, with an eye-popping economy of 2.90 in the first ten overs.
If India win tomorrow, they will regain the top spot and push England further to the brink of elimination. But they are still without Hardik ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/hardik-pandya-set-to-miss-england-game-as-well-1405259), who is recovering from his ankle injury. And that means going in with just five frontline bowlers once again. Perhaps that’s why Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav were rolling their arms over in the nets ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/the-buzz-kohli-gill-sky-become-net-bowlers-1405572).
Form guide: India on a winning streak
India WWWWW (last five ODIs, most recent first) England LLLWL
In the spotlight: Mohammed Siraj and Jos Buttler
Coming into the World Cup, Mohammed Siraj ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/mohammed-siraj-940973) was among the most lethal ODI bowlers around, having picked up 30 wickets in 14 matches in 2023. He was striking every third over and had an economy of 4.91. But so far in this World Cup, he has looked off-colour. He has only six wickets in five outings, at an economy of 5.90. If he continues in the same manner, he will face stiff competition from Mohammed Shami for his place once Hardik is back.
Just like his team, Jos Buttler ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/jos-buttler-308967) has also failed to live up to the expectations, and he himself accepted it ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/icc-cricket-world-cup-2023-jos-buttler-i-ve-not-been-able-to-lead-with-my-own-performances-1405548). Widely considered one of the most dangerous white-ball batters, Buttler started the tournament with 43 against New Zealand. But since then, his scores have been 20, 9, 15 and 8. His captaincy has been under the scanner as well, especially the decisions to bowl first against Afghanistan and South Africa. Dealing with all the unwanted attention and criticism, does he have anything left in the tank to inspire a turnaround?
Team news: India likely to be unchanged
India have the option of bringing in R Ashwin and playing three spinners. But that would leave them with just two seamers. So expect them to play an unchanged XI.
With no left-hand batter in India’s top six, there’s minimal value in Moeen Ali’s offspin. So he is likely to sit out yet again, with Harry Brook replacing him. England could also bring in Gus Atkinson for Mark Wood.
England (probable): 1 Jonny Bairstow, 2 Dawid Malan, 3 Joe Root, 4 Ben Stokes, 5 Jos Buttler (capt, wk), 6 Harry Brook, 7 Liam Livingstone, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 David Willey, 10 Gus Atkinson, 11 Adil Rashid
Pitch and conditions: A red-soil surface
In three matches so far at the Ekana Cricket Stadium in this World Cup, spinners have registered an economy of 4.79 ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?bowling_pacespin=2;class=2;filter=advanced;ground=3355;groupby=ground;orderby=economy_rate;series=15338;spanmax1=27+Oct+2023;spanval1=span;template=results;type=bowling), as opposed to 5.63 by seamers ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?bowling_pacespin=1;class=2;filter=advanced;ground=3355;groupby=ground;orderby=economy_rate;series=15338;spanmax1=27+Oct+2023;spanval1=span;template=results;type=bowling). But Sunday’s match will be played on a red-soil pitch with light patches of grass. So expect the seamers to have a bigger say.
The temperature in the afternoon will be around 31°C but should drop by five degrees in the evening. There’s no forecast for rain.
Stats and trivia: Kohli vs England
Only twice a defending World Cup champion has failed to reach the knockouts: Australia in 1992 and Sri Lanka in 1999.
Shreyas Iyer is 69 away from 2000 ODI runs. If he gets there on Sunday, he will be the joint second-fastest Indian ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/records/fastest-to-2000-runs-283176) to the mark.
England are the only team against whom Kohli has played more than one ODI and averages less than 50 ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/player/253802.html?class=2;filter=advanced;orderby=batting_average;template=results;type=batting) (43.22).
Shami has dismissed Buttler five times in 60 balls, more than any other bowler in ODIs.
Jonny Bairstow averages 13.25 against Ravindra Jadeja in ODIs, with four dismissals in six innings.
“We were desperate to come here and try and win back-to-back 50 over competitions. We’re still very much focused on all formats of the game.” England assistant coach Marcus Trescothick plays down the idea that England have lost interest in ODIs