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Yuvraj's fitness only concern for India

Last updated on: November 16, 2008 17:33 IST

With their confidence on a high after the landslide win in the opening ODI, in-form batsman Yuvraj Singh's back injury is India's only concern as they prepare to take on a battered England in the second one-dayer of the seven-match series in Indore on Sunday.

After drubbing the visitors by a massive 158 runs, the Indians are hoping that Yuvraj, who pummelled the English attack with an unbeaten 138, would be fit to take the field.

Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said a final call on the attacking left-hander, who required a runner for most part of his innings in the Rajkot ODI, would taken just before the match.

Pace spearhead Ishant Sharma, meanwhile, is all but out of the match after Dhoni admitted that his ankle sprain needs more time to heal.

England, on the other hand, have to battle low morale after the pasting they received at the hands of the marauding Yuvraj. Skipper Kevin Pietersen says his team would bounce back and come hard at India in the second clash.

But that looks easier said than done against an in-form Indian line-up, which did not show any sign of missing a stalwart in Sachin Tendulkar, who has been rested for the first three matches.

It was Tendulkar's masterly batting that enabled India to tame Australia in the latter's lair in the triangular ODI series Down Under at the beginning of the year and his absence was surprisingly not even felt at Rajkot's Madhavrao Scindia ground.

The array of stroke-players that India possess in the batting line-up, starting with the potent opening combine of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir followed by Suresh Raina, Yuvraj, Rohit Sharma and Dhoni, must be causing not only envy but also awe among the visiting team.

The Indian new ball bowlers Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel in particular extracted life even in the afternoon on what was a perfect belter in Rajkot while their England counterparts -- led by the redoubtable Andrew Flintoff -- looked quite innocuous and failed to take advantage of whatever juice the wicket had in the morning.

Pietersen's decision to ask India to take first strike must have been prompted by the array of pace bowlers at his disposal, but to his chagrin all of them were taken to the cleaners by the Indian batsmen.

It is unlikely the South Africa-born batsman, who top-scored in England's reply with a confident and attractive 63 before he was run out, will repeat the same mistake henceforth.

"It's definitely disappointing to lose. But there are six games left in the series and we intend to bounce back and hit India hard on Monday. We would give them a good run for the money", the England captain said after his team's humiliating defeat in the first ODI.

However, to achieve this he said the team has to improve in all aspects of the game.

India, on the other hand, could not have asked for a better start to the seven-match series that concludes on December 2 at the Ferozshah Kotla ground in Delhi. The mandatory new ball after 34 overs and the new Power Play rule, is also proving to be a big advantage for India's big hitters.

At the end of the 34th over, India were 216 for two giving a run-rate of 6.35 and the team added 171 runs in the last 16 overs at a whopping 10.6 per over, a clear indicator of the difference these two rules made to the overall picture.

Yusuf Pathan, who lasted just two balls after the electric start provided by the openers, could give way for left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha if the think tank feels that more variety is required in the spin department which had three off-spinners to fall back on at Rajkot.

England, meanwhile, are grappling with their problems of how to forge a potent bowling attack to take advantage of the wicket and weather conditions in Indore.

Samit Patel, who was set upon by Sehwag and Gambhir as soon as he was introduced to bowl, took two wickets but conceded 78 runs. With Monty Panesar not a part of the ODI fold, visitors' spin options are limited.

They are also missing the swing bowling of Ryan Sidebottom, who could have caused some problems with his movement as the other four -- Flintoff, Steve Harmison, James Anderson and Stuart Broad -- rely on pace and bounce more than movement in the air to get wickets.

Sidebottom has not played since suffering a heel injury during the Stanford Super Series of matches in the West Indies and even if passed fit, it is difficult to see him getting in without bowling extensively at the nets after having had such a long break.

The odds, thus, seem to be in India's favour ahead of the second ODI, but the home team needs to guard against complacency more than anything else.


India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, R P Singh, Munaf Patel, Virat Kohli, Murali Vijay.

England: Kevin Pietersen (captain), Ian Bell, Matt Prior, Owais Shah, Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood, Ravi Bopara, Andy Flintoff, Samit Patel Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steve Harmison, Luke Wright and Ryan Sidebottom.

Umpires: Russel Tiffin and Amish Saheba, third Umpire: Suresh Shastri.

Hours of play (IST): 9 am to 12 30 pm, 1 10 pm to 4 40 pm.

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