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Poms plot parting kick, India grapples with a top order in disorder

Written by: Staff

Indore, Apr 14 (UNI) Four defeats in a row killed the seven-match series stone dead as a contest and before divine intervention arrested England's slide in Guwahati. Stand-in for another stand-in, Andrew Strauss engineered a win in Jamshedpur and the British side will plot a parting kick in the final showdown before they quit India.

In contrast, despite swamping the visitors in the backwaters of Kochi to seal the series, Team India grapples with a top order conundrum with no immediate solution in sight.

Barring the glaring exception of Rahul Dravid, who takes over the reins here from his deputy Virender Sehwag, the top order has its reputation in tatters and it was the middle order and the unsung hutch of cricketing rabbits and ferrets who saved India the blushes.

Defeated in Delhi, flayed at Faridabad, grounded in Goa and made to kowtow in Kochi -- England seamers still managed to expose the much-celebrated Indian top order and things were more explicit in Jamshedpur where the Indian top half were cooling there heels in the pavilion with the score reading 79.

It took one series and the aura around the batsmen has vanished into thin air with the likes of Sehwag and Mohammad Kaif rendered non-performing assets.

Sehwag has been worked out by the England pacers and it has been a whack-and-walk story for the Delhi dazzler, who would come and bang around before his premature perish.

Kaif finds himself in a morass and his last nine scores read 8,5 not out,0,0,4,0,0,5 and 15. The Uttar Pradesh bat is feeling the heat more with state-mate Suresh Raina outshining him with the bat and matching his electric heels.

While Dhoni and Irfan Pathan have blossomed into better batsmen with Greg Chappell's patronage, continuous rejig of the top order meant India never had a settled pair at the top and guest appearances by Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Rahul Dravid have been short-term solutions.

And with Dhoni rested and Sehwag seeking a sabbatical, India might blood greenhorn Robin Uthappa tomorrow and the English pacers are not minding that.

While Dhoni's absence will deny Indore the cricketing fireworks, it would also throw up challenge and opportunity at the same time, for his batting colleagues to prove their mettle.

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