England primed for tough test in India

Updated: 11 December 2008 14:37 IST

Cricket returns to centre stage in India after the Mumbai attacks as Kevin Pietersen's England buckle up for the two-Test series starting on Thursday.

England primed for tough test in India

Chennai:

Cricket would score over terrorism and more than the outcome, both the teams would hope to apply balm on the wounds of India's terror-stricken populace when they host England for the first Test on Thursday.

Since the November 26 Mumbai mayhem, it took umpteen hectic parleys and individual behind-the-door persuasion by both the Indian and English Boards to convince that India is safe enough to continue the tour they had abruptly abandoned after the Mumbai massacre.

To their credit, Pietersen and his teammates, including the reluctant trio of Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison and Graeme Swann, put behind their personal apprehension and decided to board the India-bound flight after security adviser Reg Dickason had given the green signal for the series.

But now that the terror scare has been overcome, weather god poses the most serious threat to the Test with the possibility of rain hovering over the eagerly awaited Test.

Despite England returning with a full-strength team, the match on paper looks heavily tilted in favour of the Indians, who bulldozed the visitors 5-0 in the ODI series.

To make it worse for the visitors, Ryan Sidebottom has already been ruled out of the series, while fellow pacer Stuart Broad will also be out of action in the first Test.

Though Denmark-born Kent pacer Amjad Khan has been drafted in as Sidebottom's replacement, Harmison, James Anderson and Flintoff would have to shoulder the entire burden in the pace bowling department.

Their batting looked fragile in the one day series and unless their is a dramatic improvement, England bowlers would not have enough runs on the board to defend. In contrast, there apparently is no real chink in the Indian armour and though the void created by the twin retirements of former captains Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble would take time to fill, it's not likely to make much of an affect on the team's show against England.

On a high after taming the world champion Australia at home, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his teammates apparently cannot put a foot wrong and England bore the brunt in the ODI series where a 7-0 whitewash seemed looming large over them before the last two ODIs were abandoned following the Mumbai massacre.

Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir don't feel the need to get their eyes in and attack straight from the word go which has made life difficult for the rival bowlers.

While Rahul Dravid continues his battle against a prolonged bad patch, it hardly affected the side because others raised their hands to be counted.

Sachin Tendulkar has proved that he has not lost his hunger for runs and the double century against Australia in the Delhi Test underlines the kind of form VVS Laxman is in.

Though Yuvraj Singh remains in and out of the side, the selectors reposed faith in him and now that Ganguly is no more around, this series provides a golden opportunity to the left-hander to cement his place.

Dhoni's altered approach to batting means he is no more a mindless slogger and can bat according to situations, which means there simply would be no respite for the visitors. In the bowling department, Zaheer Khan is arguably the best new ball bowler in the world at the moment. The left-hander has also assumed the mentor's role for youngsters like Ishant Sharma and the result is showing.

With both Zaheer and Ishant breathing fire, Munaf Patel hardly got chance but still managed to impress all with his cerebral approach in the ODI series against England.

The spin department, meanwhile, has seen a quiet passing of the baton with Harbhajan Singh taking over as the spearhead and leg-spinner Amit Mishra effortlessly stepping into Kumble's shoes.

All in all, an in-form India hold a clear edge over the undercooked visitors and England would require an extraordinary effort to do what Australia could not.

Squads (From):

India: MS Dhoni (c), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, S Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma and Murali Vijay.

England: Kevin Pietersen (c), Tim Ambrose, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Amjad Khan, Monty Panesar, Matt Prior, Owais Shah, Andrew Strauss, Graeme Swann and Ravi Bopara.

Umpires: Daryel Harper and Billy Bowden.

Match Referee: Jeff Crow

Hours of play : 9.30 to 11.30 am, 12.10 to 2.10 pm, 2.30 to 4.30 pm.



Topics : Cricket Sreesanth
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