Tuesday’s third and final one-day international carries more than just the weight of a series decider.
Regardless of the outcome to the 50-over finale at Headingley (15:30 start time), England are guaranteed to retain their No.1 ODI ranking while India, who sit just behind the Three Lions, can salvage momentum and bragging rights on English soil less than a year before the 2019 ICC World Cup gets underway in England and Wales.
At this juncture, these two teams have to be viewed as the out-and-out favourites to claim the title. England’s rejuvenation in a format, which was for so long their Achilles heel, has been well-documented.
A series-clinching win would be most welcome for Eoin Morgan’s side here after losing out in the T20 contests, but it is hard not to look ahead to next year’s showpiece and their pursuit of a maiden title, even with plenty of cricket to come between now and then.
In Leeds, Indian support once again is set to gazump that of English followers in what could mimic a potential World Cup semi-final clash, and indeed atmosphere, between the two sides next summer.
England will actually be keen to avoid that, given home advantage would count for very little.
It is a distinct possibility they will meet in the last four, depending on the placing of the four teams who advance from the 10-team group format in 2019. Old Trafford, in Manchester and Edgbaston, in Birmingham, could be the venue for an England v India showdown – and expect the crowd to be a sea of blue, favouring the subcontinent giants.
England will get another dose of India’s feverish support at Headingley and need to get to grips with how to handle that best and silence the majority.
One way to do that is with their batting, which appears as formidable as ever and should still be going great guns for a while yet. Jos Buttler can put this side on the front-foot and steer a game in his team’s favour, where as Joe Root can solidify an innings.
Their bowling, however, still lacks bite, pace and an element of variety despite having experienced campaigners such as Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid in the mix. It is definitely an area in which India will look to attack and ram home an advantage.
India should look at the ODI finale as an opportunity and a blessing that they have been able to become so accustomed to English conditions so close to the World Cup – a trophy in which they have won twice previously.
Yes, a UK heatwave has left pitches uncharacteristically dry and slow, aiding Indian’s spin class and will probably not be the same next year, nevertheless, India’s selection panel must be comforted by the fact they are starting to find answers to searching questions over the make-up of their best XI.
The visitors took the upper hand in the three-match series with a scintillating eight-wicket win in the first ODI at Trent Bridge before England came roaring back with a 86-run victory at Lord’s.
With all to play for in Leeds, we look at the key talking points ahead of the clash.
PSYCHOLOGICAL ADVANTAGE FOR THE TAKING
While the Test series will literally be a different ball game, there is no denying that the victor on Tuesday will take a huge psychological advantage into the upcoming five-match series.
There has been little to separate the two sides stacked with quality in the limited-overs clashes so far. With India having taken the bragging rights from the T20 series, an ODI victory to boot will put them in great stead for the red-ball action.
For the hosts, the prospect of losing both limited-overs series will not be an enticing one and they will look to even the scales in that regard before switching over to the five-day format.
ENGLAND LOOK TO DECIPHER KULDEEP CODE
In the first ODI at Trent Bridge, Kuldeep Yadav ran riot with career-best figures of 6-25 as England’s batting-order failed to find an answer to the youngster’s left-arm wrist-spin. Skipper Eoin Morgan spoke about the need to play Kuldeep better at Lord’s and to a certain extent, England, especially centurion Joe Root, did manage to do that.
However, the India man still managed to remove England openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow before dismissing Morgan himself. He might have gone for 68 runs in his 10 overs but Kuldeep did manage to keep the hosts guessing throughout and sow some doubts. With Virat Kohli dropping hints that the 23-year-old could feature in the Tests too, England will want to put on a much more assured showing against him at Headingley.
KOHLI’S SUSCEPTIBILITY TO SPIN
All throughout the limited-overs clashes, the theme has very much been how England’s explosive batsmen handle India’s wrist-spin pair of Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal. While that topic is still up for debate at this point, India skipper Virat Kohli’s own vulnerability to spin in the series has been a surprising turn.
The best ODI batsman in the world and an excellent player of spin, Kohli has been dismissed by spinners in both ODIs so far. He was outfoxed by an excellent Adil Rashid delivery at Trent Bridge and stumped before being trapped on the pads by Moeen Ali at Lord’s.
The India skipper has played some excellent knocks in the T20s and ODIs so far but has failed to go on and get to the three-figure mark, which is slightly uncharacteristic for a man who excels at converting half-centuries into tons.
The Caribbean side blew away Bangladesh in both Tests have now traded places in the latest ICC Test team rankings released on Sunday. West Indies are now in the eighth spot while Bangladesh have dropped down to ninth.
India continue to remain perched at the top of the table with 125 rating points, 13 ahead of South Africa who remain in second despite their heavy loss.
In the individual rankings for batsmen, Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne has, as expected, made some big gains after his stellar performance in the Galle Test. The Sri Lankan opener carried his bat in the first innings with a knock of 158 before adding 60 more runs in the second innings.
The stars of the Galle and Jamaica Tests have reached career highs in the latest @MRFWorldwide ICC Test Player Rankings! @IamDimuth - #️⃣1️⃣0️⃣@Jaseholder98 - #️⃣1️⃣3️⃣— ICC (@ICC) July 15, 2018
➡️ https://t.co/3ChoFmCG4p pic.twitter.com/V05ceYYkY7
For the first time in his career, the 30-year-old has broken into the top-10 of the ICC rankings as he climbed 21 spots to claim the 10th spot in the table.
In the bowling department, West Indies’ skipper Jason Holder has made the most impressive leap after recording his career-best figures in the second Test against Bangladesh.
Holder picked up 5-44 and 6-59 in the two innings at Sabina Park and has moved up to a career-high 13th spot in the bowlers’ rankings. The West Indies skipper also gained one spot in the all-rounders’ ranking to move up to the fifth spot in the table.
Former Australia skipper Steve Smith continues to maintain his No1 ranking for batsmen despite his one-year ban from international cricket with India captain Virat Kohli retaining the second spot. South Africa pacer Kagiso Rabada continues to top the bowling charts after becoming the youngest bowler to claim 150 Test wickets during the first Test at Galle.