Saturday, 29 October 2011

Chastened England aim to stay at No. 1

Match Facts

India v England, October 29, Kolkata
Start time 1830 (1300 GMT)

Graeme Swann will captain England in the Twenty20, Kolkata, October 28, 2011
Matches: India v England at Kolkata
Series/Tournaments: England tour of India
Teams: England | India

Big Picture

England have not won a match against India in India since 2006, and this Twenty20, strangely scheduled after the one-day series, is probably their best opportunity. The India players would have enjoyed the festivities over the three-day Diwali break. MS Dhoni visited his home in Jharkhand for the first time in four months after the fifth ODI, and his tweet on arriving at Eden Gardens on Thursday - "Kolkata, back on national duty" - did not reveal a great deal of enthusiasm at the prospect of this one-off game.

England's biggest weakness over the five one-dayers was that their batsmen struggled against India's spinners, and will hope that the reduced number of overs will make R Ashwin and co less effective. They will also have a new captain, and will need Graeme Swann's famed wit to lighten the spirits of some visibly frustrated players. Swann reckons England should just enjoy the match, after a testing series so far, and that may be their best bet against an India side that may struggle to find meaning in the match after having already battered England over the one-dayers.

The big test during this Twenty20 could well be for neither team, but for the Bengal Cricket Association. The sparse crowds that marred the ODI series were typified by the half-empty Eden Gardens stadium for the final one-dayer. The Diwali season may have been an excuse for that poor turnout, but with the festival now over, the number of people the organisers can bring through the gates on Saturday could be an indicator of where cricket in India is headed.

One thing that will not work in their favour is the odd scheduling of the match. The significance of a one-off Twenty20 games is debatable in any case, but at least when scheduled before an ODI series they may act as something of a preview to the series. Now, with India fans already high on the euphoria of the 5-0 drubbing and Diwali, it is questionable how many people remember England are even still here.

There are a few points of interest in the match, though. This is the first Twenty20 international since the ICC announced the official Twenty20 rankings. England are currently ranked first, but a loss will take them down to third, while India will want to improve their No. 5 ranking.

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