The bigger picture from the first half of India’s tour of England was always going to be about what transpires in the one-dayers, with the T20 series serving as an appetiser. With the World Cup less than a year away, and to be played at the same venues, this series is being billed as a contest between the strongest contenders for the mega event.
The three matches in the next six days will give a glimpse of where India and England stand and they will look to slot in the final pieces in terms of combination and gameplan.
India can claim the psychological edge having won the T20 series, but the home team believes they are the world’s best in the 50-overs format. They derive confidence from the fact that they are the top-ranked team in ODIs and have won their last 10 bilateral series.
The battle begins at Trent Bridge on Wednesday, and the very sight of the venue will be a big lift for the hosts. The last time England played here, they got a world record score (481/6). Given how confidently India have started the tour, the hosts will look to take inspiration from their dominant show in the recent battles against Australia.
Skipper Eoin Morgan will be aware that Virat Kohli’s team will test England in ways Australia were not able to; India have better batsmen, more skilful fast bowlers and wily spinners.
And after the T20 series, the momentum is with the visitors and they have an equally strong recent record in ODIs. They have scored nine successive bilateral series victories and are on a high after annihilating their previous opposition South Africa on their turf.
Their middle-order is one area India will look to sort out from that series and whether Kohli takes up the responsibility at No 4 will be crucial.
India have an even more formidable batting unit, led by the Kohli, the most destructive batsman in the format. There’s no better reminder than his performances against South Africa earlier this year, where he set the world record for most runs in a bilateral ODI series, averaging a mind-boggling 186 after hammering 558 runs with three centuries and a half-century.
NO ROOM FOR ERROR
The T20 games showed there will be little margin for error between these evenly-matched outfits. Whichever batsman is in will have to kick on and get the most out of it. A period of poor play, and there will be no recovery.
Bowling is England’s weak link. The teams woke up to a grey sky on Tuesday but the sun shone by the team they arrived for training.
England pacers though will hope there is cloud cover on match day.
Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid took 12 wickets apiece in the series against Australia, a record for a pair of England spinners in any ODI series. But the Indian bowling is better balanced and offers Kohli more variety.
Given the match-ups on offer, the stage is set for an explosive, mouthwatering clash.