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India eye a clean sweep

- JONNY BAIRSTOW LEAVES FOR HOME CITING FAMILY REASONS
Yuvraj Singh

Calcutta/Mumbai: Having lost the Test series in their own backyard, it was important for India to stage a comeback. They pulled all the right strings on Thursday, to register a convincing win in the first Twenty20 against England.

Now, India would be keen to continue the winning momentum and complete a clean sweep of the series by winning the second and final game at the Wankhede on Saturday.

For the hosts, a clean sweep will also mean that they would start the Pakistan series on a confident note.

India will take on their arch-rivals in a two-match T20 series and a three-game ODI series.

England, on the other hand, would be eager to square the rubber and return home for Christmas and New Year on a high note.

Though India cantered home on Thursday, they will have some issues to solve in both batting and bowling before the Pakistan series.

In bowling, the Powerplay and slog overs are still a worry as pacers Parvinder Awana was wayward and Ashok Dinda bowled too short. England batsmen, especially Alex Hales, had no trouble in facing them.

Though Dinda came back later to bowl well and take two wickets, Awana’s nervousness cost him 29 runs in two overs. He is likely to be replaced by Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Abhimanyu Mithun.

Even off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who started off well by bowling a maiden over and scalped the wicket of Michael Lumb, was carted around later for 33 runs. Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush Chawla also failed to pose a threat to the batsmen.

It was because of Yuvraj Singh’s brilliant spell in the middle overs — he returned figures of 4-0-19-3 — which halted Hales and Luke Wright from running away with the game.

Hales and Wright added 68 runs in quick time, thrashing the Indian bowlers, before Yuvraj turned the match around by getting rid of both the batsmen. He also accounted for skipper Eoin Morgan.

India could have conceded 15-20 more runs, a fact not lost on Morgan.

“We got off to a fantastic start — Alex and Luke really came together as a pair — but from there we didn’t really kick on,” said Morgan.

In batting too, India started off brilliantly before openers Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane threw away their wickets in close succession by trying to hit big.

It was Yuvraj’s experience and his ability to clear the rope at will that helped the hosts steady the innings and then surge to a comfortable victory with 13 balls to spare.

England too have their problems. While Jonny Bairstow returned home two days ahead of schedule for family reasons, on Friday, he left behind the question of how England strike the most effective balance in the Twenty20 side prior to the second game .

A team spokesman said that Bairstow’s surprising omission from the team that lost by five wickets in Pune, on Thursday, was unrelated to the matter back home. Rather, it stemmed from the tactical decision to play five specialist bowlers rather than a seventh batsman.

Alex Hales, at least, has been a bright spark as shown again by his 26-ball fifty in Pune.

He is England’s leading run-scorer in the format this year, and he revealed that he has put his progress in four-day cricket ahead of any desire to feature in the Indian Premier League (IPL), having been snapped up by Duronto Rajshahi for $62,000 in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) next month.

He admitted that he would love to be part of the growing number of franchise-based events across the world, but only if his deeper ambition of playing for England in all formats is not realised.

“Being picked up for the BPL is good preparation for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in 2014,” Hales said. “But I am not in the IPL auction. I was not allowed by my club (Nottinghamshire) to go into it, but that is fine because I can prepare for the county season.

“I am not sure how that happened. I spoke to my agent (Steve Musgrove) and that is what he said. I am not fussed about it.”

TEAMS

India (likely): Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Parvinder Awana/Abhimanyu Mithun, Piyush Chawla, Ashok Dinda.

England (likely): Michael Lumb, Alex Hales, Luke Wright, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Jos Buttler, Tim Bresnan, James Tredwell, Stuart Meaker, Danny Briggs, James Harris.

Match starts: 7pm (IST)