England start the final leg of their tour to India this week with a five match ODI series. I don’t tend to pay much attention to pyjama cricket and certainly I won’t be staying up all night (the start of play in my timezone is 00.30 for the first four matches and 21.30 for the last one) to watch them. But there are some interesting aspects.
Pyjama cricket has generally been a strength for India and a weakness for England and especially in India. England’s last three ODI series in India have yielded a combined 16-1 advantage for the home side as well as a tie in a World Cup match. But England go into the series in good ODI form whilst India do not. England beat Pakistan, the West Indies and Australia to love last year before drawing the ODI series against South Africa. It’s not true to say that India have struggled in that time, but their results have been much more mixed. Most recently they lost a home ODI series to Pakistan which I doubt will have gone down well. I don’t think the fact that England lost their first two warmups will indicate much. They failed to win any of the warmups ahead of the successful Test series and when they played an ODI series in India last October they won both warmups before losing badly in the actual series.
I think England are probably marginal favourites for the series; both sides are difficult to predict, but England are in form and confident. What they will need to do is tighten up the bowling; with players being (rightly) rested from the series and Broad injured it means that there is not a lot on which to rely. James Tredwell is a decent spinner and I’d like to see Danny Briggs bowl alongside him. (Actually, I’d prefer to see Simon Kerrigan bowl alongside him, but he isn’t in the squad.) It would be an interesting blend of different styles and vastly different experience. The seam bowling relies on Steven Finn to be fit and effective; none of Jade Dernbach, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Meaker or Chris Woakes really inspire confidence yet. England’s batting looks strong enough, however, that even if India do manage to exploit the weak bowling (and their batting is out-of-form, so they may not) England will probably still be in the game.
I think the series will see at least couple of one-sided affairs in each direction, but will ultimately go down to a 3-2 margin in favour of England. If India can get their batting going, however, we may see a repeat of the last few series.