DEFEAT in the two warm-up matches before England’s one-day series in India will merely have underlined the scale of the task facing Ashley Giles, who has just taken charge of the ODI and Twenty20 teams.
Giles has a job transforming the one-day side in the long-term, but more pressingly in India, where England’s struggles are exemplified by the fact they have lost 16 of the last 18 ODIs there.
Batting-wise, the tourists continue to look strong, with captain Alastair Cook, in-form Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen all likely to contribute handsomely. The bowling attack, shorn of key men James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann has much to prove, however, and its success will be key to how England fare in this series.
It’s vital that Giles finds other bowlers he can rely on. Anderson, Broad and Swann will clearly play when it matters most, but this tour offers the chance for others to show they can be more than just back-up.
Steven Finn is one of those men and this is a massive opportunity for him. For a while people have been saying the Middlesex fast-bowler is the business; now is the time for him to do the business.
I also like Surrey paceman Stuart Meaker. He hits the wicket hard but needs to show he has the requisite control for the one-day game. Jade Dernbach has had opportunities but has flattered to deceive.
This is a very hard series to call. Both sides have their issues, not least India, who were convincingly beaten by Pakistan in their recent three-match ODI series, despite edging the last match.
One factor in England’s favour is that they know they can beat India, following last month’s landmark Test series win. The hosts, whose one-day side also features a few of their five-day stars, know it too.
Victory in the first match in Rajkot on Friday would be huge for Cook’s men, and would heap further pressure on already under-fire opponents, who can’t afford to get off to a bad start.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who has acted as captain and chairman of Warwickshire.