The top-two ranked ODI sides will go head-to-head in one of the most pivotal clashes of the 2019 ICC World Cup with England and India set to lock horns at Edgbaston on Sunday.
It is India who come into the clash with momentum on their side with the Men in Blue just one point away from clinching a place in the semi-final.
England, on the other hand, have their backs against the wall after three defeats and are under immense pressure to keep their semi-final qualification hopes alive with a win on Sunday.
The stakes are as high as they can be, especially for England, and the outcome could very well come down to the finest of margins.
Here, we look at three key battles that could decide Sunday’s clash.
SHAMI V BAIRSTOW
Mohammed Shami has been a revelation for India so far in the World Cup ever since he came into the playing XI in place of the injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
The 29-year-old pacer is looking fitter and leaner than ever and has already picked up eight wickets in his two appearances including a stunning hat-trick against Afghanistan.
The right-arm pacer looked in menacing form in the recent outing against Windies and he will once again be trusted to lead the new-ball attack alongside Jasprit Bumrah.
Up against Shami first up will be Jonny Bairstow who has now failed to fire in both of England’s defeats against Sri Lanka and Australia. The England opener was looking in good touch at the start of the tournament and he will be eager to get back to his very best with his side in a desperate situation.
Bairstow has hit out at England’s critics recently but the Yorkshireman will have to make his bat do the talking on Sunday. Shami, however, isn’t going to make his task easier with the way he has been bowling of late.
KULDEEP V ROOT
Amidst England’s shambles, Joe Root has remained a class apart with the right-hander having a terrific individual tournament with the bat.
The England stalwart has already racked up 432 runs in seven innings with the help of two tons and three half-centuries and is looking like a hard man to dislodge at the moment.
Root’s personal battle with Kuldeep Yadav will be a pivotal one with the young wrist-spinner being one of India’s biggest wicket-taking threat. Root was initially bamboozled by Kuldeep when India toured England last year but the Englishman quickly got on top of the spinner as the series progressed.
Kuldeep is slowly starting to rediscover his best after a poor IPL campaign but the India spinner will have his task cut out against an in-form Root. If the England No3 gets on top of Kuldeep and the spinners, it could be hard for India to contain England to a manageable total.
ROHIT V ARCHER
With the injury to Shikhar Dhawan, the importance of Rohit Sharma with the bat has only increased for India.
The India deputy skipper had a stellar start to his World Cup campaign two tons and a half-century but he has since gone off the boil. Rohit’s cheap dismissals in the last two games has seen India struggle with the bat against Afghanistan and West Indies and the right-hander will need to raise his levels once again on Sunday.
Rohit’s new-ball battle with Jofra Archer will definitely be one to watch with the England pacer looking extremely good in his maiden World Cup campaign.
The Barbados-born pacer has been the best English bowler on display with 16 wickets in seven games to his name and he has the capability to turn up the heat on India’s batsmen.
If he can get England Rohit’s wicket early, it could be half the battle won for the hosts.
The Pakistan-Afghanistan match at the 2019 World Cup turned out to be more explosive than anticipated as fans clashed on an emotionally and politically charged day at Headingley on Saturday.
Police were forced to intervene after fights broke out between Afghanistan and Pakistan supporters in Leeds.
The match was sitting on a tinderbox with Asian News International agency reporting that billboards were put up around Birmingham with the message “Help end enforced disappearances in Pakistan.”
The situation got out of hand after a plane flew a banner over the ground with the message: “Justice for Balochistan.”
Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province, bordering Afghanistan and Iran and struggling with violence.
AFP reported West Yorkshire police as saying: “At 11:55 am today police received reports of some trouble outside the ground linked to people trying to get in. Officers attended to disperse the group without any issues and remained on patrol in the area.”
The International Cricket Council said the tournament should not be used as a platform for political statements.
“We are aware of some scuffles among a minority of fans and are currently working with the venue security team and the local police force, West Yorkshire Police, to ensure there are no further incidents,” the ICC said in a statement.
“We do not condone any sort of political messages at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup and will work with West Yorkshire police to deal with and understand why this has happened and to ensure it does not happen again.”
One month is a long time as England have just realised with the hosts’ hopes of qualifying for the semi-final of the 2019 ICC World Cup now hanging in the balance.
An expectant nation waited as Eoin Morgan and his men began their World Cup campaign exactly a month ago as the No1 ranked ODI team and heavy favourites for the crown.
The script was followed as they swatted aside the South African challenge in the tournament opener but three defeats in six games has left them on the verge of an embarrassing exit before the semi-finals.
Instead, it is India who now hold the No1 rank and it is them who will feel like the home side when they take on England in a blockbuster clash at Edgbaston on Sunday.
PRESSURE TELLING ON ENGLAND
Three defeats in the tournament while chasing have exposed the mental vulnerabilities of the power-packed English side who were racking up 350-plus totals for fun over the last two years.
The latest loss to Australia where they crumbled in a chase of 286 has now put England in a precarious spot. A loss against India might not close the doors on them mathematically but it will definitely be another nail in the coffin.
The hosts’ defeats have brought their own scrutiny from the media and former players alike with the likes of Michael Vaughan questioning the team’s mental fortitude. The pressure is now on England to respond and reaffirm their title credentials no matter how much the likes of Jonny Bairstow might try to deny it.
The situation is fast turning dire for Morgan’s men and they will be hoping explosive opener Jason Roy is declared fit in time for Sunday’s clash.
INDIA LOOK TO SEAL THE DEAL
While Australia are the first side to qualify for the semi-final, the Indians have been equally impressive, if not more, in what has been an unbeaten campaign so far.
With five wins in six games along with a no-result against New Zealand, the Indians are sitting pretty in second spot in the table and will confirm their place in the semi-final should they win on Sunday.
Virat Kohli and his men have been dominant for the most part bar one clash against Afghanistan where they were given a scare.
It has very much been a team effort from the Men in Blue who will turn out in their orange away kit for the first time in the tournament on Sunday.
None of their batsmen or bowlers feature in the top-five leading run-scorers/wicket-takers in the World Cup but they have still managed to stitch together an impressive run.
A big part of the team’s success has been their bowling unit which is the most economical of all 10 sides in the competition.
SHANKAR GETS KOHLI APPROVAL
One area of concern still for India despite their unbeaten run is the No4 spot which has once again opened up since the injury to Shikhar Dhawan.
With KL Rahul moving up the order, it is all-rounder Vijay Shankar who has been preferred in the role but he has mostly been a passenger so far.
Shankar did get two wickets with the ball in the win over Pakistan but has been largely anonymous otherwise. While the clamour for the inclusion of Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik in his stead has grown, Kohli is placing his faith in Shankar for now.
“I personally felt he (Shankar) looked really solid. There’s not much to be tinkered. Sometimes in cricket you just need a little luck to get from 30 to 60, and then you can play a defining knock for the team,” Kohli said on the eve of the England clash.
“He’s very close to that and we are very confident that he’s going to end up playing that kind of knock for us,” the India skipper added.
England: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood.
India: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Vijay Shankar, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal.