India and England meet in Bangalore on Sunday in a World Cup blockbuster packed with potential heavyweight clashes, but plagued by organisational headaches.
India, one of the tournament favourites, piled up the highest total of the World Cup so far when they raced to 370-4 in their 87-run victory over co-hosts Bangladesh on opening night in Dhaka.
By contrast, England looked jaded in their six-wicket win over the Netherlands in Nagpur, allowing the Dutch to make 292-6 before skipper Andrew Strauss made a composed 88 to help secure victory with eight balls to spare.
India will also be buoyed by their recent dominant record over the English.
In 12 one-dayers played between the two in India since 2006, the home side has won 11.
Sunday’s match also sees two headline acts – suitably at the top of the batting order – with Sachin Tendulkar and Kevin Pietersen contesting bragging rights.
Tendulkar is the world’s leading scorer in both Test (14,692 runs) and one-day cricket (17,657), while Pietersen has scored 3,556 runs in 111 one-day internationals.
“He (Tendulkar) has been one of the mammoths of world cricket over the last two decades,” said Strauss.
“The fact he’s been able to do it for so long and so consistently is a great testament to him. He’s an absolute legend.”
Strauss believes, however, that Sunday’s game will bring out the best in Pietersen.
“Opening the batting is giving him a fresh outlook on his one-day cricket and we hope he’ll transfer all that into big runs,” said Strauss.
“He’s performed well in the sub-continent before and he knows this wicket well, because he’s played IPL (Indian Premier League) here. In the big matches and big tournaments, generally we see the best of Pietersen.”
World Cup organisers will hope the game at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium passes off without incident after a chaotic build-up saw fans, desperate for tickets for the Group B game, baton-charged by police.
The ground in Bangalore holds 38,000 people but around 30,000 of the tickets are reserved for associations, clubs and commercial partners.
“What is unfortunate is that too few tickets go to the public as a general sale,” admitted International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Haroon Lorgat.
“No matter what sort of capacity we provide, the truth is that we won’t have enough seats for the demand that we have on our hands.”
“The rush for the tickets is an indication of the popularity of the 50-over format and the passion fans, especially in India, have for the game of cricket.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan sit proudly on top of Group A after an 11-run win over Sri Lanka on Saturday in Colombo gave them two wins in two matches.
Captain Shahid Afridi anchored the win with figures of 4-34 to restrict Sri Lanka — chasing Pakistan’s score of 277-7 — to 266-9 at R. Premadasa stadium.
“It’s a very big win for us,” said Afridi, who also completed 300 one-day wickets in his 314th one-day international. “This will raise the morale of the players.”