India look to put one foot in World Cup semi-finals

- October 28, 2023
| By : Khurram Habib |

A win against the struggling England will give enormous boost to India’s semi-final chances

India will virtually assure themselves of a place in the World Cup semi-finals if they manage to beat the already downcast England in their sixth league stage game at the BRSABV Ekana Cricket Stadium here in Lucknow on Sunday.

Rohit Sharma’s men come into this match having won all of the five games, and find themselves in second position on points table, many rungs above England who have registered just one victory in their five matches and are lying in tenth position on the points table.

The Indian team management will probably take a fresh look at the combination even though the playing XI that was fielded in the absence of the injured Hardik Pandya in Dharamsala against New Zealand worked well.

Pandya is currently at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru recuperating from an injury he suffered against Bangladesh on October 19.

Mohammed Shami, who came into the last game as one of the two replacements, picked five wickets to derail New Zealand. But he may have to fight for a spot in Sunday’s game with off-spinner R Ashwin on what will be a red-soil pitch, where the ball is likely to carry.

A previous game on the same pitch on the square which was re-laid following controversy during a T20 International in January, saw South Africa scoring 311 and beating Australia by 134 runs.

Going by the current form, Shami should play but the Indian team management can also opt for Ashwin knowing that England batsmen like the ball to come onto the bat and may struggle against slow bowler, especially one as wily as the seasoned off-break bowler.

If the net session on Saturday at Ekana’s ‘B’ ground was any indication, Shardul Thakur, who bowled a reasonably long spell, may also play. In that case, India may dispense with Shami as well as Suryakumar Yadav, who were both drafted in the October 22 game against New Zealand and bring in the pace bowling all-rounder and also make space for slow bowler Ashwin.

KL Rahul, India’s No. 4 batsman, however, said on Saturday that the team backs Suryakumar Yadav hinting that the batsman, who was unlucky to be run out in Dharamsala against New Zealand, may get another chance. If that happens, Shami, Ashwin and Thakur will fight for one spot.

While the combination will be revealed only on Sunday, the focus for India would be to make scoring difficult for England’s hard-hitters on the Ekana Stadium, which is among the World Cup venues with longest boundary.

Jos Buttler’s men have built their game on batting prowess often ignoring their bowling. They have relied on batsmen building huge totals and overpowering the opposition with the weight of runs.

However, that facet has let them down during this World Cup and with bowling not up to the mark, the defending champions have looked completely out of sorts.

“We have only had one really big score, haven’t we? Dawid [Malan] got 100 against Bangladesh. So, we could do with a few more. Obviously, we need to — that’s the level we expect it to be because in 50-over competitions, there’s room for 150s, 180s, 200s as we’ve seen. We need a few bigger performances over the long 50 overs,” said Marcus Trescothick, England’s assistant coach, to media on Saturday.

The former England opener hinted that they might field Harry Brook who didn’t feature in the last game. His straight hitting on the long, straight boundary here may come in handy.

Rahul said that the Indian camp hasn’t spoken much about England although the home team won’t take them lightly.

“We have not spoken too much about the opposition so far in all these games. The talk mostly has been on focussing on our strengths. Yes, we do a little bit of homework about the opposition and like you said England are the defending champions. Yes, they may not have had a few results going their way but it doesn’t change the fact that they are still a very dangerous team and we will not go by what has happened with them in the last few games. We will focus on tomorrow and try to compete and beat them again,” Rahul added.