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Fireworks expected as ODI giants prepare for battle

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If England’s long-term ODI project needed one last tryout ahead of next year’s World Cup, there can hardly be a better dress rehearsal than facing cricket’s other formidable ODI team at home. There’s a plethora of staggering batting and bowling numbers around both England and India, but the larger picture is that this is a contest between No. 1 and No. 2, with the possibility that those positions could be either one’s by the end of the series.

For now, it is England, with their explosive openers and robust middle order who come in as the better-ranked side. They have lost only four of the 21 ODIs they have played in the last 12 months, with the most recent string of those wins coming in the 5-0 thrashing they handed to Australia.

Those would be grounds to be favourites against any other team, but as the T20I series – with largely the same players – showed, the competition is likely to be neck to neck and winning will depend on how the teams maneuver crucial short phases, the kind that are expected to belong to match-winners.

And there’s no shortage of those on either side. England’s batting depth narrowly edges India, but the visitors have their bowling sorted more than the hosts, as evidenced in their domineering series wins against South Africa in the limited-overs series earlier this year.

On flat surfaces, both these teams can be destructive. What will we see when they take on each other on England’s characteristically flat surfaces? One can only predict that…

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