India looking to seal series in Gwalior
A buoyant India will look to wrap up the five-match one-day cricket series against Pakistan when the arch rivals clash in the fourth tie of the five-match series in Gwalior on Thursday.
India took a 2-1 lead in Kanpur, when they defeated Pakistan by 46 runs, after failing to defend their mammoth total of 321 at Mohali. The hosts will look to carry forward the winning momentum at the capt Roop Singh stadium, which has been a happy hunting ground for them.
With India boasting a deep batting line-up and the wicket at the predicted to be “perfect for batsmen”, the task could be easier for the hosts irrespective of whether Mahendra Singh Dhoni calls the coin correctly or not in the day-night clash.
Indian batting has clicked well with Sachin Tendulkar’s leading from the front while Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh have also shone with the bat on various occasions in the three matches played so far.
Tendulkar, after repeatedly falling in nervous 90s, would be desperately looking to break the jinx about his 42nd century.
Yuvraj, who scored 58, 34 and 77 in the three ODIs, has emerged as a major threat for Pakistan with to his superb timing and knack to switch on and off his attacking instinct to suit the team’s needs.
“Yuvi has always been a trump card for us. I want him to bat for at least 20 overs in all the matches. His knock is important in every match. He also bowled and fielded very well,” Dhoni said.
Indian bowlers also rose to the occasion in the last ODI by restricting the visitors to 248 while chasing 295 for victory.
Irfan Pathan drew special praise from Dhoni for his accuracy, which helped contain a blazing opener Shahid Afridi while spinners Harbhajan Singh exploited the spin-friendly conditions well to check the run flow.
However, with wicket here hardly having anything for spinners, it would be a matter to watch what combination the Indian team management picks for the match.
Fielding, however, was a cause of concern for the hosts as Dhoni admitted that dropped chances may end up costing them dearly in close matches.
“Fielding does matter a lot. We dropped a few catches and we know we have to work hard on this aspect,” he said after the third ODI.
The visitors, who face a do-or-die situation in the match to be played under the floodlights, would try to bounce back in the limited over contest to go into the Test series with an upper hand and put the onus back on India.
Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik, whose tenure as the captain, has been extended by another year would be under pressure to avoid another series defeat after losing to South Africa at home.
Malik would be looking at his options to stop the hosts even as Pakistan would be contemplating whether to play their out-of-form wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, who is said to have aggravated his finger-injury at Kanpur, or give Sarfraz Ahmed his ODI cap.
The young Pakistani skipper would also hope that opener Salman Butt continues with this sparkling form and lay a firm foundation for a big total.
“Salman (Butt) is playing just superb cricket. We want him to continue the way he is batting at the moment,” he had said after the opener’s 129-run knock in the Kanpur ODI.
Malik also admitted that his team lacked in the fielding department saying “we need to work hard on it”.
As international cricket returns to the Captain Roop Singh Stadium after over four years, fans can look forward to see fireworks in the 11th match of the venue with curator Samundar Singh Chauhan predicting a high-scoring match.
India have won six out of the eight matches, played at the venue with its last success coming against Australia in 2003.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, S Sreesanth.
Pakistan: Shoaib Malik (capt), Younis Khan, Abdur Rehman, Fawad Alam, Iftikhar Anjum, Imran Nazir, Kamran Akmal (wk), Misbah-ul Haq, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Yousuf, Salman Butt, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Yasir Hameed, Sarfaraz Ahmed.