England skipper Andrew Strauss may be confident of snatching the Number 1 Test spot from MS Dhoni and his men. As on the opening day of the 1st Test at Lord's however, not many are willing to bet on the hosts to come good on their promise.
An online poll conducted amongst surfers by the Guardian's website has 71% voters expecting India to continue it's dominance in the longest format of the game. Not just surfers on this website but others browsing English news portals have mostly backed India to either draw or win the 4-match Test series. These include die-hard English supporters who fear English bowling to come un-done and hold the team down. "Nothing to fear when Cook is here. But so are Sachin, VVS and Dhoni for our bowlers to contend with," was a comment made on BBC's preview of the historic Test.
Interestingly, the experience of James Anderson and Graeme Swann coupled with the form that pacer Chris Tremlett is basking in currently, fails to evoke much confidence amongst those who are willing to look at the contest from beyond the 'support-your-national-team' point of view. "Well, we might as well not play the series anymore. We will not be able to get Sachin out," was a comment made on The Sun's website after it was reported that Panesar had bowled to Sachin Tendulkar in a net session last week. Sachin has talent and experience backing him and the comment was just one of many which hinted at a general fear amongst local fans, of the Little Master coming good against whatever is tried at him from the bowling end.
Even English cricket experts and former players are bent slightly against England, concerned with the bowling line-up. "I am more concerned with England's bowling. India have a very strong batting line-up and I don't think the home side are capable of taking 20 wickets. They do not have enough strength in depth," wrote Jonathon Agnew, BBC's cricket correspondent. Some others are every bit as concerned as well. "If England carry on with a four-man attack, they cannot afford for someone to have an off-day," feels former England pacer Angus Fraser. Then there is also the big question of choosing between Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan, the eventual choice looking like being either the reason to blame or cheer depending on the final outcome. "England face a massive decision for the first Test at Lord's - whether to pick Stuart Broad or Tim Bresnan. Whoever they go with, they need to stick with him for two or three Tests. I'm sitting on the fence but it is a great problem to have," wrote Phil Tufnell, former England spinner, on the BBC website.
In a completely different vein, what the highly anticipated series has started on some of the English news websites is a nationalist war-of-words amongst surfers. And it is not being fought by Indians. "The English need to be taught that an Ashes win does not make them World Champions when they face the real World Champions. The Aussies will be ready for Strauss once India is done with him," wrote a surfer. The reply: "We know you're an English anyway. Count yourself lucky, you could have been an Australian if your ancestors were criminals, then you would have something to moan about. Just sit back, relax and watch us beat India to become the no.1 team in the world. We already own the Aussies, full stop."
So as the two teams get set for battle, opinion wars have already begun on several varying frontiers at the English borders on the web. The final victor is awaited.