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India look to clinch ODI series on Thursday

Published: Monday, April 3, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Kochi:Having won the first three One-dayers at Delhi, Faridabad and Goa, India will be looking to clinch the series by winning the fourth match against England on April 6 here.

The Nehru Stadium here, the venue of the match, has always been a happy hunting ground for the hosts and a special one for Sachin Tendulkar, who, however, will not be seen in action as he is recuperating from a shoulder surgery in London.

Going by the history and present form, the home team start as firm favourites to secure an unassailable 4-0 lead in the series.

A rich treat is in store for the cricket buffs in this football-crazy city, as the pitch is expected to favour the batsmen as compared to the slow wickets at Delhi and Faridabad.

And if local lad S Sreesanth, who was dropped for the Goa match, is named in the playing eleven, the atmosphere at the stadium would no doubt be electric.

The stadium has a reputation of being a batsman's paradise.

In the four games so far staged here, on three occasions the score went past 300 and five batsmen have scored hundreds.

Though the 22-yard strip here would be a nightmare for bowlers, one person who would like to take this pitch and carry it around with him wherever he goes is Sachin Tendulkar.

The Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) is mulling with the idea of bidding for Test status for the venue, which was put on the international cricket map when it hosted the first match on April 1, 1998, in which India defeated the Steve Waugh-led Australians by 41 runs.

At this venue Sachin rolled his sleeves over to claim his first five-wicket haul in his career to fashion India's win as the Aussies crumbled to 268 all out from a healthy 203 for three. Sachin returned with a superb 10-1-32-5 in that match after. India scored 309 for five, thanks largely to Ajay Jadeja's century (105) and Mohd Azharuddin's knock of 82.

Save for the match between India and Zimbabwe in 2002, which was a low-scoring affair after the home team was done in by rookie medium pacer Douglas Hondo, the other contests were high scoring affairs.

India successfully chased South Africa's total of 301 for three in 2000, when Jadeja (92) and Robin Singh (42) nullified the centuries scored by Gary Kirsten (115) and Herschelle Gibbs (111) who were involved in a record 235-run opening wicket stand. India ultimately finished at 302 for seven winning with two balls to spare in front of a nearly one lakh crowd.

Last time when India played here last year, they defeated Pakistan. Sachin disappointed again with the bat, but claimed his second five-wicket haul and earned a unique distinction of being the only Indian to claim two five wicket hauls in the same venue.

In that match, India scored 281 for eight, thanks to centuries by Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid and Pakistan were bowled out for 194. Laxmipathy Balaji and Zaheer Khan made early inroads, before Sachin overawed the Pakistanis polishing off the middle and lower order to return with figures of 10-1-50-5.

Despite the searing heat and the high humidity level, which is expected to test the players physically, the scenario on April six will not be different. The decibel levels will reach a crescendo as the expected sell-out crowed will be rooting nothing short of an Indian victory.

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