When you walked out your front door this morning, did you have that moment of sudden, sublime surprise as the warm air hit you? Well, that’s what we’re hoping for in today’s third one-day international between England and India at The Oval; sublime surprise.
All things point to a dead series: many of India’s star names are missing; Sachin Tendulkar’s hunt for his hundreth hundred is postponed because of a toe injury; Harbhajan Singh’s hunt for a smile to put on his face is also on hold – though that may never happen; England’s most exciting one-day batsmen, Eoin Morgan and Kevin Pietersen are missing for different reasons; and besides, the serious business has already finished 4-0.
But, but, but. If you came here today you could think it was a gripping series. The Indian fans show no signs of staying away, and you would not know their team has not won a match against England all summer. Inside the ground a band of Indian drummers were banging out a rhythm as if nothing has happened since they won the World Cup earlier this year.
What we really need is a close-fought game, perhaps, dare we say it, edged by India so as to keep the series – and their spirits – alive. The early signs are not good: Ajinkya Rahane edged James Anderson to first slip in the first over, Rahul Dravid was run-out brilliantly by Anderson four overs later, Parvin Patel was then bowled by … Anderson, and Virat Kohli was also caught by … Anderson. It’s the Jimmy show up to this point.
India have made two changes to the team that played the 23-over match at the Rose Bowl: allrounder Ravindra Jadeja comes in for batsman Manoy Tiwara and Vinay Kumar loses out to RP Singh. England have dropped Samit Patel to bring Jonathan Trott back in – an understandable move for a pitch which looks a lively green and under cloudy skies. For that reason too, England have put India in to bat.
Matt Le Tissier, that most entertaining of footballers, is also here. And if it’s good enough for him then it should be good enough for the rest of us.
Benj Moorehead is staff writer for The Cricketer