Barmy Army or Dhoni's men?

Barmy Army or Dhoni's men?

Around 4,000 English cricket fans who have reached Bangalore to follow the fortunes of their team in the World Cup, will be at the stadium in all their colourful attire and noisiness.

Steve Smith from Yorkshire, who was spotted on Church Street looking for a decent pub, was guardedly optimistic about his team’s chances against India. “We will definitely beat India if we get rid of Sehwag and Sachin cheaply,” he said. All roads will lead to the Chinnaswamy stadium on Sunday from early in the morning, and the fans will be hoping for a cracker of match, provided the weather doesn’t play spoilsport.

The lead-up to the game has been messy, the ticketing fiasco originating from the match being shifted from the Eden Gardens, and Thursday’s unfortunate lathi charge on a restive crowd.

Cricket, however, will return to the forefront when India and England battle for supremacy in a match with so much at stake. Both teams are expected to easily qualify for the quarterfinals from a tight, competitive Group B, but victory on Sunday will go a long way towards helping them avoid relative heavyweights in the first knockout game.

India have had the edge over England on home turf in recent times, including a 5-0 win in the last meeting between the teams on Indian soil, but November 2008 is a long way back. Since then, England have improved dramatically under the new leadership group of skipper Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower. They broke their duck in global limited-overs competition last April with victory in the World T20 in the Caribbean, and extended their domination over Australia in Test matches, but slipped back again to a 6-1 defeat in the ODIs.

India will have taken note of England’s halting progress, but their own recent record is nothing if not impressive. Blessed with inarguably the strongest batting line-up of the World Cup, the Indian top-order is full of individuals who can single-handedly alter the outcome of a match. England’s chances will depend on how much control their pacemen can impose on India’s free-flowing batsmen. There is forecast for rain in the afternoon, and there is no reserve day pencilled in for matches in the group stage, so a wash-out on Sunday will result in the teams splitting points, which isn’t the most satisfactory result for anyone concerned.

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