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Next oneday at Kochi

Written by: Staff
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Kochi, Apr 4: The Nehru stadium in this God's own country is always a happy hunting ground for India, and a special venue for Sachin Tendulkar, who however, would not be seen in action as he was recuperating from a shoulder surgery.

India, after winning the first three ODIs at New Delhi, Faridabad and Goa, would be looking forward to secure the series-clinching win in the fourth match against England on April six in this very venue, which has a special place in the heart of Sachin Tendulkar.

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 of this football crazy city, as the pitch was expected to favour the batsmen when compared to the slow wickets at New Delhi and Faridabad.

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

The Stadium here has a reputation of being a batsman's paradise.

In the four games so far staged here, there were three totals in excess of 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 ever match on April one, 1998, in which India defeated the Steve Waugh led Australians by 41 runs.

Sachin might have failed with the bat but he rolled his arms 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 analysis of 10-1-32-5. India had 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 Herschille Gibbs (111) who were involved in a record 235 run opening wicket stand. India's 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, it defeated Pakistan.

Again Sachin disappointed with the bat. But Sachin as a bowler, claimed his second five wicket haul and earned an unique distinction of being the only Indian to claim two five wicket hauls in the same venue.

For the record, 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 mesmerised 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 was expected to test the players physically, the scenario on April six would not be different. The decibel levels would reach a crescendo as the packed stadium would be rooting nothing short of an Indian victory.

UNI

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