India look to carry momentum in third ODI
Buoyed by the massive series-levelling victory in the second ODI, India will look to keep the momentum going when they go into the third one-dayer against England in Ranchi on Friday, hoping that skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's first match in his hometown will prove lucky.
After falling short by nine runs in a high-scoring 326 run-chase in Rajkot, India came back strongly at Kochi to level the series 1-1 with a 127-run win, their second highest margin of victory against England.
The manner in which victory came for Dhoni's men gave a fresh lease of life to the struggling outfit. Now, it will look to take the crucial lead going into matches at Mohali and Dharamsala.
Another destructive innings by Dhoni (72), coupled with Ravindra Jadeja's unbeaten 61, set the momentum after yet another top-order failure in Kochi as England choked in the 286-run chase.
Image: MS Dhoni and Alastair Cook
Middle order a worry for India
In the Kochi triumph, India finally seemed to have found the all-rounder solution in Jadeja, who came of age, brilliantly chipping in with 2 for 12 from his seven overs of left-arm spin.
Another positive was the failing middle-order's return to form, with Suresh Raina, Dhoni and Jadeja notching half-centuries.
That Virat Kohli, going through a rare lean patch, showed some flair in his 37 also augurs well for India, as the think-tank may not try and to fiddle with the batting line-up, even as the poor run of Gautam Gambhir continues to baffle.
Image: Virat Kohli
A lot will depend on Dhoni again
But, come Friday, it will be all about Dhoni when India plays its first match at the skipper's home ground.
"200 per cent I'm looking forward to it (playing at home). It's a big thing for me," the Ranchi-born wicketkeeper-batsman, who has played 216 ODIs since making his debut in 2004, in Bangladesh, had said.
With Dhoni being in the form of his life, the ODI in his home town could not have come at a better time as it will add to the fervour the match has already generated in the state.
Since the 2011 World Cup, Dhoni has averaged 83.28, at a strike rate of 92.39, with 11 fifty-plus scores in 27 innings.
Amid India's batting ruins, Dhoni has stood tall, sometimes left ploughing a lonely furrow with little support from his fellow-batsmen. He has aggregated 307 runs in his last five matches, at a handsome average of 102.33.
Image: MS Dhoni
Bhuvneshwar once again to lead India's bowling
Most of the Indian batsmen failing collectively is the reason for the recent slide.
On the bowling front, Bhuvneshwar Kumar took down the English top-order early on in Kochi when he removed Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan in the space of three balls in an outstanding new-ball spell.
The 22-year-old also showed fine stamina, bowling his 10-over quota at a stretch and was rewarded with his best International figures -- 3-29 -- in his fifth appearance.
Bhuvneshwar will be the key in India's bowling, as the wicket promises to offer some swing early on, even as the poor form of Ishant Sharma may prompt the think-tank to bring in Ashok Dinda.
Ishant is a shadow of the magical spells he produced in Australia, bowling too short or wayward, leaking runs at more than eight an over.
Image: Bhuvneshwar Kumar
England will bank on KP to fire
England's hope for a double, and a repeat of the 1984-85 series, where they won both the Tests and ODIs, will largely depend on how Kevin Pietersen performs in the next three ODIs.
The middle-order batsman is yet to convert his starts (44 in Rajkot and 42 in Kochi) in the series.
Down 0-1 in the Test series, Pietersen turned it around with a series-levelling 186 in Mumbai to help England pocket it 2-1, their first in 28 years.
England have not won an ODI series since then, as their last best performance on the Indian soil was the 3-3 result in 2001-02.
Image: Kevin Pietersen
Openers in fine form
On a Rajkot-like batting-friendly pitch in Ranchi, the opening duo of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, who put on 158 together in the first ODI, will again look to set the platform for the Englishmen.
In absence of Stuart Broad (heel injury), England are touring with an inexperienced attack. Their speed options are Steven Finn, Jade Dernbach, Chris Woakes and Tim Bresnan.
In the spin department, off-break bowler James Tredwell, after an encouraging 4-44 in Rajkot, will look to relish Indian conditions, while Samit Patel should be useful with his left-arm orthodox.
Image: Alastair Cook and Ian Bell