Rejuvenated India seek series lead

January 19, 2013 - 5:33:34 am

RANCHI: Propped up by the massive series-levelling win in the second ODI, India will look to keep the momentum going when they go into the third one-dayer against England here today, hoping that skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s first match in his hometown will prove lucky.

After they fell short by mere nine runs in a high-scoring 326-run chase in Rajkot, India came back strongly in Kochi to level the series 1-1 with a 127-run win, their second highest margin of victory against England.

The manner in which the victory came for Dhoni’s men gave a fresh lease of life to the struggling outfit and it would look to take the crucial lead going into Mohali and Dharamsala.

Another destructive innings by Dhoni (72 from 66 balls) coupled with Ravindra Jadeja’s unbeaten 61 from 37 balls set the momentum after yet another top-order failure in Kochi as England choked in the 286-run chase.

In the Kochi triumph, India finally seemed to have got the allrounder solution in Jadeja who came of age, brilliantly chipping in with 2/12 from his seven overs of left-arm spin.

Another positive was the failing middle-order batsmen’s return to form with the Suresh Raina, Dhoni and Jadeja notching half-centuries.

That Virat Kohli, going through a rare lean patch, showed some flair in his 37 would also augur well for India as the think-tank may not look to fiddle with the batting line-up, even as the poor run of Gautam Gambhir continues to baffle. But today, and it will be all about Dhoni when India play their first match at the skipper’s home ground.

The World Cup-winning captain has an aura about himself at the newly-constructed JSCA International Stadium Complex in the south-western fringes of the city, like Sourav Ganguly has in Kolkata.

“200 per cent I’m looking forward to it (playing at home). It’s a big thing for me,” the Ranchi-born wicketkeeper batsman, who has so far played 216 ODIs since making his debut in 2004 in Bangladesh, had said.

With Dhoni being in the form of his lifetime, the ODI in his home town could not have come at a better time.

Since the 2011 World Cup, Dhoni has averaged 83.28 at a strike rate of 92.39, with 11 fifty-plus scores in 27 innings.

England’s hope for a double, and a repeat of the 1984-85 series, where they won both the Tests and ODIs, would largely depend on how Kevin Pietersen performs in the next three ODIs in their series in India.

The middle-order batsman is yet to convert his starts (44 in Rajkot and 42 in Kochi) in the series.

Down 0-1 in the Test series, Pietersen had turned it around with a series-levelling 186 in Mumbai to help England pocket it 2-1, their first in 28 years.

England have not won an ODI series since then, as their last best performance on the Indian soil was the 3-3 result in 2001-02. AGENCIES