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Pitch may play an important role
- Second ODI
- Pathan doubtful, but all eyes on Sehwag

Faridabad: Will history repeat itself' It’s a question being frequently asked on the eve of the second TVS Cup one-day International between India and England to be played at the Nahar Singh Stadium here on Friday.

The last one-dayer played at this venue three years ago proved to be a near disaster. The tri-series match between New Zealand and Australia got over around lunch-time after the Black Caps were skittled out for 97. The Aussies needed only 16.4 overs to wrap up the match.

Pitch was held the villain then, more than the two Aussie bowlers, Nathan Bracken and Brad Williams. This time, too, there is a strong feeling around that the pitch may break much earlier than one would expect it to.

Though curator Vijay Yadav, himself a former international cricketer, was confident that it would be a good wicket for the batsmen as well, not everyone agreed. Another international and Yadav’s former Haryana colleague, Chetan Sharma was not sure whether it would give the batsmen enough opportunity. “I am strongly suspicious about the nature of the wicket tomorrow. It may not last too long.”

Even Team India captain Rahul Dravid was not certain about the nature of the track. “It is tough to assess because there are not too much of past records to go by. Not many Ranji Trophy matches have been played here to look at the scores,” he said.

“But it looks firm and not powdery. It could start to turn as the match goes on. And given the early morning start, there could be a little bit for the seamers in the beginning as well,” Dravid said.

Dravid, however, has more problems to deal with besides judging the nature of the pitch. His biggest worry at the moment is the fitness of Irfan Pathan, who skipped nets on Thursday because of fever and sore throat. Dravid said the decision on whether to retain Pathan in the XI would only be taken on Friday morning.

“Irfan had a bit of flu after the last game. He had fever and a sore throat. We have only rested him today as a precaution. Hopefully he should be fit,” Dravid said.

Munal Patel, who did not play the Kotla tie after limping out of the nets because of a bruised left heel, went through a gruelling two and half hours of training here on Thursday, but Dravid was not ready to commit on his fitness. “He went through the training and bowled quite well,” he said. “Let us see how he shapes up... I am sure he will be fully fit before the next match if he doesn’t play tomorrow.”

If Pathan fails to make it at the last moment, his place could be taken by Ajit Agarkar or Ramesh Powar. If the Mumbai offie does play, it will mean India going into the match with two spinners.

Though the Indians sounded confident to take a 2-0 lead in the seven-match series, Virender Sehwag’s lack of form seemed to bother the thinktank. The Delhi batsman hasn’t done too well in recent past and a big innings from him is long overdue in the shorter version of the game. Coach Greg Chappell was all concentration when Sehwag practised on Friday. The opener has been susceptible to short deliveries of late, and was made to practise against them during nets on Thursday.

England, on the other hand, will certainly like to bounce back in the series. The visitors will have to bat more carefully than they did at Kotla the other day. Captain Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen had the match in their pocket, but threw it away with downright poor shots.

TEAMS

India (from): Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Venugopal Rao, Ramesh Powar, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Sreesanth and Munaf Patel.

England (from): Andrew Flintoff, Kabir Ali, James Anderson, Gareth Batty, Ian Bell, Ian Blackwell, Paul Collingwood, Matthew Hoggard, Geraint Jones, Sajid Mahmood, Kevin Pietersen, Liam Plunkett, Matt Prior, Owais Shah, Vikram Solanki and Andrew Strauss.

Umpires: Asad Rauf and A.V. Jayaprakash; TV: I. Sivaram.

Match starts 9 am.

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