Morning everyone. Let’s twist again, like we did last… Saturday! Yes, after a full two days off, one of which was spent travelling, India and England are back for more, starting another new series. This time it’s the 50-over game, the middle kid in the cricket family – balanced, sometimes neglected, and not brought up by absolute beginners.
For Ben Stokes at least, this series will have some novelty value. The last time he appeared in England’s 50-over colours was in the World Cup final at Lord’s, back in July 2019. Spoiler alert: he did quite well. In fact, his last six ODI innings, all from that World Cup, are 82 not out, 89, 79, 11, 84 not out and (in the Super Over) 9 not out, making a total of 354 at an average of 118.
But that was then, and this is now, with the scales nicely poised. England are the world’s top-ranked team in ODIs, the World Cup holders and the master blasters, but they’re missing their spearhead, Jofra Archer, and they’ve just grabbed a T20 series defeat from the jaws of a 2-1 lead. India are the world’s second-ranked team, its dominant force, and the hosts. They’ve got Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma on top form, and they’re running hot after coming from behind three times in six weeks – once in the Test series and twice in the T20s.
That momentum is enough to make India favourites. And, since Christmas, they’ve found a new superpower: it no longer matters if a few of their stars are missing, because the understudies seem to be just as good. Their 2nd XI may have to be offered a place at the next World Cup.
The caravan has left Ahmedabad, after almost a month, and settled in Pune, about an hour’s flight south, just inland from Mumbai. Last time England played an ODI here was four years ago, when they rattled up 350, reduced India to 63-4, and still lost. So, basically, anything can happen.
Play starts at 8am GMT, and I’ll be back around 7.35 with the toss and the teams. There’s one name I’ll be looking for like an anxious parent: Moeen Ali. He has toured three nations this winter and has played as many matches as he has caught viruses. Time, surely, for Eoin Morgan to show Mo some love.