Bangalore, Feb 26: In what is being touted as the the battle of the tournament so far, India will take on its former colonists in an updated, flashy version of the Lagaan fable. Again it is India's turn to show the English who are the masters and who are the slaves. But rather than tax constituting the major stake in this encounter, it is a better standing in Group B which both teams will be slugging it out for.
At the outset, India holds a clear advantage over the English. Though each team has won a series at home against the other since the last world cup, India lost it's away series in a close 3-4 outcome while blanking England 5-0 at home. But that series was played a fair while ago - in Nov 2008. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and its been smooth sailing for both sides since.
Just the last month however, would suggest that India is in the better shape than the team from Ole Blighty as the former came close to beating South Africa in its ODI series in the Rainbow Nation, while the latter was simply trounced by the Aussies Down Under. However, England appear to have regained its footing coming into the World Cup as their strong performance in the warm-ups will attest to.
Winning both their scrimmages, including a high-octane encounter against Pakistan, Matt Prior topped the run-getters table for his side with an average of 51.00, followed by Kevin Pietersen's 45.00 and Paul Collingwood's 37.00, while Stuart Broad got the most wickets for any bowler at 10 scalps with an astounding average of just 6.20. So, it looks like the side is well in gear for the big tournament.
However, as far as individual performances in the warm-ups go, India have done one better that the English, with M S Dhoni averaging a whopping 119.00 from the matches against Australia and New Zealand, followed by Gautam Gambhir at 47.50 and Virat Kohli at 40.00. Meanwhile, Harbhajan Singh emerged as the best bowler with 5 scalps at an average of 6.40 followed by Piyush Chawla with 6 wickets at an average of 11.60.
Going back to India and England's two one-day series after May 2007, the figures tell a slightly different story. In the last twelve matches between the two sides, Indian middle-order batsman Yuvraj Singh came out with flying colours, topping the averages table at 74.37, followed by his team-mate Sachin Tendulkar at 53.42 and then England's stalwart Kevin Pietersen with 49.02. Other noteworthy averages are Ian Bell's 45.66, Paul Collingwood's 42.65 and Gautam Gambhir's 36.12.
In the bowling department, Stuart Broad emerges as the most successful bowler for England against India with 16 wicket from 12 matches at a below-average average of 38.02. Harbhajan Singh has been India's most effective bowler against the English in recent times., picking up 7 wickets from 5 matches at an average of 30.28.
So, on all counts, India hold the edge over England. But can the visitors pull of a stunner on Sunday and upset India? We need look no further than Feb 27th...