If England’s long-term ODI project needed one last tryout ahead of next year’s World Cup, there can hardly be a better dress rehearsal than facing cricket’s other formidable ODI team at home. There’s a plethora of staggering batting and bowling numbers around both England and India, but the larger picture is that this is a contest between No. 1 and No. 2, with the possibility that those positions could be either one’s by the end of the series.
For now, it is England, with their explosive openers and robust middle order who come in as the better-ranked side. They have lost only four of the 21 ODIs they have played in the last 12 months, with the most recent string of those wins coming in the 5-0 thrashing they handed to Australia.
Those would be grounds to be favourites against any other team, but as the T20I series – with largely the same players – showed, the competition is likely to be neck to neck and winning will depend on how the teams maneuver crucial short phases, the kind that are expected to belong to match-winners.
And there’s no shortage of those on either side. England’s batting depth narrowly edges India, but the visitors have their bowling sorted more than the hosts, as evidenced in their domineering series wins against South Africa in the limited-overs series earlier this year.
On flat surfaces, both these teams can be destructive. What will we see when they take on each other on England’s characteristically flat surfaces? One can only predict that whatever it is, it won’t be dull.
England WWWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Virat Kohli is rarely outside of the spotlight, but there is tremendous significance in this tour for him on a personal front. While his numbers in England are up there – an average of 52.46 in 19 games – he hasn’t done well against England in the country – an average of 32.33 in 10 games. You’d bet on him doing better than that average considering his three centuries in six innings this year, but there is the possibility that India could look to solve their No. 4 dilemma by dropping their captain into that slot like they had during the T20s. In ODIs, he last batted there in October 2015: will Kohli risk that move in his pursuit to win every session of the tour?
Jonny Bairstow has made a century against every team he has faced this year, and is currently top of the charts with 864 runs in 16 innings. His opening partner, Jason Roy, has made three ODI hundreds this year and is the only other international batsman to make more than 700 runs in the format. Both of them have been striking at greater than 100, and have struck a combined 174 fours and 45 sixes between them. With Jasprit Bumrah out of the ODI series and Bhuvneshwar Kumar battling a stiff back, how the openers do against India’s inexperienced pace line-up can set the tone for how the middle order tackles the wristspinners.
Ben Stokes is expected to come straight back into the England XI after missing the Australia series. Alex Hales is likely to make way for him.
England (probable): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 David Willey, 9 Liam Plunkett, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Mark Wood/Jake Ball
Bhuvneshwar Kumar is doubtful for the opening ODI after he was rested for the final T20I in Bristol due to a back injury. He went to the ground on a day of optional training but did not participate in any warm-up exercises or net sessions. Rohit Sharma said that Bhuvneshwar was “fine” but a final decision would only be taken on match day. Shardul Thakur could take Bhuvneshwar’s place and accompany Umesh Yadav in the pace attack.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 KL Rahul, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Dinesh Karthik/Suresh Raina, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Shardul Thakur, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Umesh Yadav
The temperature continues to stay in the early twenties. It’s the middle of a long, dry summer in England and there are no signs that it will end tomorrow. It should suit perfectly for a run-fest on the same ground that produced the highest ODI score last month, even though the same strip is not going be used.
Stats and trivia
England have a win-loss record of 46-19 since the 2015 World Cup; India are the only team that comes close, with a 39-19 record in the same period
MS Dhoni is 33 runs away from 10,000 ODI runs
Liam Plunkett (110) and Umesh Yadav (102) are the only bowlers from either squad who have taken more than 100 ODI wickets
“India have been a really strong team in this format for a long time. They won last time they came over here. I know it was a very different side they played against but it is a really good marker to see where we’re at.”
Joe Root does a memory check
“When you’re playing on pitches like this, you want to bat second. This team likes chasing down targets. I’m sure England would like the same. We’ve noticed the last series they played here, it was high scoring. This very ground was where they scored 480 runs. I’m expecting nothing less than a high-scoring series.”
Opener Rohit Sharma could play a key role if India put up a big score