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Momentum with India, but fingers are crossed

- Injury takes Rohit out of series, Vijay to join squad
Duncan Fletcher and Ravi Shastri, at Trent Bridge, on Friday

Calcutta/Nottingham: Seeking to continue their winning momentum and take an unassailable 2-0 lead, India were dealt a blow on the eve of their third one-dayer against England as opener Rohit Sharma was ruled out of the remainder of the tour because of an injury.

Rohit, who had made a half-century in India’s 133-run hammering of England in the second game, suffered a fracture on the middle finger of his right hand.

Murali Vijay has been picked as Rohit’s replacement for the rest of the series but will be unavailable for Saturday’s match.

Rohit’s absence has turned out to be India’s biggest worry going into the match. Ambati Rayudu or 19-year-old Sanju Samson may replace Rohit in the XI. India could consider using Ajinkya Rahane as an opener, and slotting either Rayudu or Samson in the middle order.

The biggest gain for India from the previous match was Suresh Raina’s century off 75 balls. The ease with which he went about his task is sure to inspire confidence in the minds of the other batsmen.

The top-three haven’t managed the kind of foundations Mahendra Singh Dhoni would have preferred. The India captain likes a strong foundation for the later order batsmen to accelerate.

However, in the past five years, India have lost four series and one of their two successes have been against Zimbabwe. Dhoni and his team would want to prove they have the requisite ruthlessness that comes with being the world champions.

India’s top-order has often been stuck in the dressing room, watching their team-mates or their opponents cash in when the pitch eases out. Shikhar Dhawan’s slump is increasingly becoming a cause for worry. He sees the region outside his off stump as if it is poison. When in form, he can be fluent through that very region, but he needs to last beyond the early overs to rediscover that.

Trent Bridge has plenty to make up for after the pitch for the opening Test was deemed unfit by the ICC. A chance to redress that comes with the added bonus that rain would be expected to play, at worst, a minimal part. The batsmen can expect a true deck with the ball coming nicely onto the bat.

The two teams have played at Trent Bridge earlier this summer in the drawn first Test. The match though was best remembered for the spat between Ravindra Jadeja and James Anderson.

As the two teams walk through that infamous corridor of the pavilion at Trent Bridge, they will feel differently about that episode. India will feel that they have a point to prove. The format has changed, and as was apparent in Cardiff, they clearly hold the edge over England in the limited-overs version.

They cannot lose steam and instead must go for jugular, for this is not about revenge for the Test series loss. Instead this is about building up to the World Cup next year and registering as many consistent performances as they can in the next few months.

In that light, India’s success at Cardiff was a great starting point. Four of the six batsmen scored runs. Among them, it was vital for Sharma and Rahane to come good. While the former has now been ruled out, the clock was beginning to tick on the latter’s role.

In scoring 41, Rahane has bought some time for himself and reduced one area of concern for the management.

Dhoni had confirmed after the match that Raina will continue to bat at No.5 and this declaration sews up the batting order. The worrying bit is about Dhawan and Virat Kohli’s form.

While India will surely be patient with their vice-captain, the same cannot be said about the left-hander. For once, India’s bowling attack isn’t a cause for concern. However it will be interesting to watch how the bowlers will cope if they are met with an unhelpful track at Trent Bridge.

To a certain extent, their frailties were hidden by the friendly conditions at Cardiff, not to mention that England are struggling as an ODI outfit at the moment. Their success will mean that there might not be any changes to the playing XI, meaning Umesh Yadav will have to wait longer for his chance in all probability.

For England, after a massive loss in the previous game, the euphoria of the Test series win will have died down. As much as they care about the longer format, their performance at Cardiff belied any serious preparations they may have made so far for the World Cup.

Alex Hales and Chris Woakes were the two positives from that second ODI but the rest of the team simply failed to match them.

While there is already criticism coming about from ex-cricketers about their plans for the World Cup, Alastair Cook and support staff have firm calculations in their minds.

TEAMS

India (likely): Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu/Sanju Samson, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav.

England (likely): Alastair Cook, Alex Hales, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, James Anderson, Harry Gurney.

Match starts: 3 pm (IST)