England in last-chance saloon
India bidding to seal 5-0 whitewash in Kolkata
Last Updated: October 24, 2011 4:46pm
Test and Twenty20 world-beaters England will end this year a distant fifth in the one-day international rankings, whatever the outcome of their final match on Tuesday against India.
Even so, an overdue victory at Eden Gardens will be a priceless commodity to Alastair Cook's young and developing line-up - who will otherwise be whitewashed 5-0 by India.
That unwelcome scoreline dredges up unwanted memories of previous series trouncings, which modern England had hoped would remain part of an under-achieving past in the 50-over format.
The majority of Cook's team were not involved when England lost 5-0, for example, under Andrew Strauss at home to Sri Lanka in 2006 - or when India inflicted back-to-back ODI defeats 5-0 and then 5-1 in 2006 and 2008.
A few more were present for post-Ashes 6-1 hammerings home and away to Australia in 2009 and this year.
Should India add another 5-0, not only will that make it 15-1 to the hosts over England's last three series in this country but it will be a jarring and largely inexplicable contrast with their fortunes in the other two versions of world cricket.
It was confirmed on Monday that the World Twenty20 champions are top of the International Cricket Council's inaugural rankings in the sprint format too.
But after England knocked India off their perch in the Test table, to become number ones for the first time last summer, they have failed conspicuously in the past 10 days to confirm an ODI superiority over the same opponents which they established in September in a 3-0 NatWest Series victory on home ground.
Thankfully, there is at least one member of the team set to take the field with Cook on Tuesday un-scarred by all but one of England's four defeats so far in this vexed rematch.
Fast bowler Stuart Meaker, 22, marked his international debut in Sunday's six-wicket setback in Mumbai with a maiden in his first over - only England's third on this tour - and a wicket in his second, on the way to figures of 1-45.
Meaker nonetheless discovered for himself just what England are up against, taking on India in their favoured conditions.
"We needed to score a few more runs if we wanted to put them under pressure with the ball."
Stuart Meaker Quotes of the week
But the South Africa-born Surrey seamer is relishing the chance to try to help his adopted country at last put a win on the board.
"If ever there's a way you're going to learn, it's by being chucked in the deep end," he said.
"The extra little bit of pace I can add is going to suit these type of wickets.
"Obviously, I'd love to be making my debut on a seaming, rapid West Indian wicket. But this is a true test of what I can do, and I hope I didn't disappoint."
There were inevitable mixed feelings for him after he performed with credit in England's fourth successive defeat.
"I was absolutely over the moon," he said of his own bowling on debut.
"I was disappointed by the overall result of the game, but I certainly wasn't expecting a maiden in my first over - and then the wicket in the next was a dream come true."
Meaker insists too that England are far from demoralised by their trying experiences.
"We're obviously a little bit disappointed - 4-0 down, and we don't want a whitewash.
"But we're a young and developing side, and the mood is surprisingly positive. We're learning every time we play out here.
"I'm certainly soaking up the atmosphere, my first time on a big trip like this."
England's problem has been a failure to produce the goods in all three disciplines on the same day.
More often than not the batsmen have been the biggest let-down, as they were again in Mumbai, but Meaker remains optimistic.
"We were obviously a little bit under par with the batting," he said.
"We needed to score a few more runs if we wanted to put them under pressure with the ball.
"We'll stay positive. Obviously, we've not had the greatest run these last few games.
"But I think as a young side we'll take a lot of heart from how we played."
England have the option on Tuesday- when they return to Kolkata's famous venue for the first time in more than nine years - of recalling their world number one slow bowler Graeme Swann, rested on Sunday, in place of young Durham leg-spinner Scott Borthwick.