India will be without Shreyas Iyer, while England ponder on the fitness of Sam Billings and Eoin Morgan

Big picture

It appears the narrative of this series is set. England have committed to being the marauders and India are, as they’ve always been, the pragmatists. It’s like cricket’s own version of a buddy cop show.

Eoin Morgan leads the troublemakers. The ones that don’t play by the rules but by their own. A set of fearless, gung-ho entertainers who truly believe in – and as a result, enhance the threat of – the firepower at their disposal. If ever there was a team that could touch 500 in an ODI, it is this lot. And no amount of collapses or defeats will sway them off this path. Better these wounds than those of 2015.

Virat Kohli‘s men are a little more straight-laced. They go by the book. They dot the I’s, cross the T’s because that’s how they have learned to get the job done. But lately, even they’ve been thinking about taking part in the shenanigans. Funnily enough, they’re doing that by the book too.

Ishan Kishan was selected for India on the day he nearly scored a double-hundred in a one-day domestic game. Krunal Pandya captains his state side and he’s here after racking up an average of 129 and a strike-rate of 117 in this season’s Vijay Hazare Trophy. India have understood the need for evolution. They are on the lookout for players with a 360 degree game and the ability to bring it out from ball one. Their talent pool knows it too. They know what they have to do to earn their cap and they are proving themselves ready for it.

Ever since the 2019 World Cup, ODI cricket has been on a significant upswing. Now with teams like England re-imagining the limits of the game and India finding a new superstar every other day, there is no telling how much fun is in store.

Form guide

(Last five completed matches first)

India: WWLLL
England: LLWLL

In the spotlight

Everyone has something to say about KL Rahul. And they are all mostly good. The team management backs him to the hilt. The experts see him as an all-format player. He himself has been expanding his game – taking on wicketkeeping duties and indulging in IPL captaincy – to make sure his cricket touches a new level. But you get the feeling he sometimes thinks too much, and that if he lets himself go for just a bit – play on instinct like the way Rohit Sharma does – he could unlock something glorious.

In a game that was choking with headline-grabbing events, there was a moment of weirdness. Ben Stokes fumbled a ball coming straight at him and it went for four. He does not do that. He is more pluck the type to darn thing out of thin air while being suspended parallel to the ground. He is box office. But that’s not been as readily apparent in this series. There was that blitz in the first Test. Then he threatened to single-handedly win the 3rd T20I, but a boss-mode performance from the world’s premier allrounder hasn’t quite come to pass. But there’s still time.

Team news

Shreyas Iyer’s shoulder injury opens up a spot in the middle order, and as replacements go, Rishabh Pant probably ain’t so bad. Kuldeep Yadav didn’t look in his usual rhythm in the first ODI and as such his place may be in jeopardy, especially with Yuzvendra Chahal waiting in the wings.

India (possible): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Rishabh Pant, 5 KL Rahul (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Prasidh Krishna

Morgan and Sam Billings are under injury clouds but there is only one frontline batting option who can take their place – Liam Livingstone. England may also be thinking about adding some variation to their bowling attack and can – if they want – call upon left-arm quick Reece Topley.

England (possible): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Ben Stokes, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Jos Buttler (wk), 6 Sam Billings, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Sam Curran 9 Tom Curran, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Mark Wood/Reece Topley

Pitch and conditions

Tricky to start. Gets flat as the game goes on. Glorious under lights with the dew. That’s been the Pune pitch in one-day cricket. So it may be another game to win the toss and chase.

Stats and trivia

  • Since Jonny Bairstow (2654) began opening the batting for England in ODIs on 14 June 2017, only one man has scored more runs at the top of a batting order – Rohit Sharma (3831). And some of that is thanks to more innings played.
  • Virat Kohli remains without an international century since November 2019.
  • India have played ten ODIs since the start of 2020 across which they have picked only four wickets in the first ten overs. Their average (154) and run rate (6.16) in this period is the worst among 17 teams in this period.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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