The visitors have made two changes: speed bowler Ollie Robinson has replaced Mark Wood, and spinner Sohaib Bashir has taken the place of Rehan Ahmed.
Contrasting fortunes, or call it performances separate the two teams — India and England — that meet at the Ekana Sports City Stadium here on Sunday. While India are on a rampaging form, with an unbeaten five-game streak, defending champions have managed to salvage a solitary win from their five outings in the ICC ODI World Cup.
It’s a do-or-die situation for England, battling survival chances, leaving aside thoughts of defending their title. For India, the task is cut out — do not let complacency creep in, and look to continue the momentum.
England are off the bottom of the standings on net run rate and all but out of contention to join the pointy end of the tournament, and a loss to the hosts will only further dent their chances of making it to the last four stages.
In contrast, India have been smartly operating the necessary changes and approach against each opponent but will still need to be mindful of the threat from the English side, which has the ammunition to roar back, and spoil India’s party.
Heading into Sunday’s contest, India will be hoping that their well-oiled bowling line-up gets the job done after having dismissed 46 of the 50 batters they have faced so far, including the full allotment against Australia, Pakistan and New Zealand.
Against an England batting line-up that has failed to pass 200 in their two outings since scoring 215 to fall 69 runs short in the loss to Afghanistan, the Indian bowling attack will hope to extend their dominance in the tournament.
As far as the track at the Ekana Stadium is concerned, the spinners could have an edge which might tempt India, already suffering the loss of all-rounder Hardik Pandya, to include veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin to add more dimension to the attack.
Hardik’s absence has already been dealt smartly in Dharamsala, with his replacement Mohammed Shami, after warming the bench for the initial four games, instantly making his impact with a barnstorming 5/54 in a top-of-the-table clash with New Zealand. Shami’s immediate impact was enough to earn him the Player of the Match award and should ensure the right-arm speedster holds his place in the India attack against England.
On the other hand, the defending champions will hope that their star all-rounder and red-ball skipper Ben Stokes, after having missed their first few matches, come good against the two-time champions. Having recovered from a troublesome hip issue, Stokes, 32, has been ruled out from bowling at the tournament, but his decent batting form could bail the team in crunch situations.
Stokes hinted that he might inspire another great escape when guiding England from 68/3 to 137/8 against Sri Lanka, but despite compiling 43 runs of his own he ultimately lacked the form and fitness to turn the game again.
With England’s hopes of making the knockout stages hanging by a thread, the outing against India could be the perfect platform for a Stokes special to stop the hosts’ juggernaut.