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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Bowlers will rule at Trent Bridge

The first test of a series is always crucial. England have gained the vital lead at Lords in this four test series. The previous visit of the Indians in 2007 also saw the first test at Lords dominated by England, albeit with one key difference. India were dogged in their resistance on day five, were rescued by rain and poor light late that afternoon and managed a draw. No lights at Lords then but a brilliant new water drainage system - it was touch and go! The action then moved onto Trent Bridge, where India won the decisive game of that three test series.

The current series has four test matches, with India having handed the lead to the opposition already. Yet, the series is very much alive, so fasten your seat belts for some really competitive cricket battles ahead. Unlike the Lords test, which did not present a real contest and was kind of one sided, Trent Bridge promises to be different.

It will bring the conditions and new tactics into play, at least from India, and present a high class contest. India have been rudely awoken from their traditional slumber at the start of the series. It gets tough and competitive from here. Any criticism of under-preparedness, valid or not, is now behind them. They are well warmed up, shall we say. Let's keep in mind that the third test should bring back both Zaheer and Sehwag. India have all to play for and level the series before the third test.

Trent Bridge is a seamer friendly grass top pitch, and overcast weather conditions are forecasted. No surprise that England are going in with their winning combination from the first test. India however need to do a lot of preparing and planning in this short three day interlude before action kicks off on Friday.

Top of the list is the decision on the bowling combination to play. It may well be a conservative approach and we may simply see Sreesanth replacing Zaheer, with rest of the side unchanged from Lords. However, there is a strong case for more than being conservative. The bowlers will determine the outcome in this game. To pick 20 England wickets, India will need the resources and options on the field.

My Indian side for Trent Bridge would include Ishant, Munaf, Sreesanth, Amit Mishra and Yuvraj. Hold on, let me explain. I prefer control and a few yards of pace which will trouble the English batsmen more than skilful gentle paced swing of Praveen Kumar. Yes he got a five wicket haul, bowled big spells in the first test, but never really threatened to rip through the side, as Ishant (or Broad) did in the game. Munaf is quicker, controlled, accurate and brings seam movement and reverse swing. Sreesanth can be a big match winner if his breakfast has agreed with him. However, he does need to be used in short bursts for best results, thus needs a support cast. As to the spin department, Yuvraj needs to be in the side as a much needed all-rounder anyway, and with his history with KP, will add a dimension of slow left arm. Slow, with above the eyeline controlled flight is important when finger spinners don't expect a square turning surface. Amit Mishra presents the only wrist spinning option and would certainly threaten the English batsmen. Raina could pitch in with a few overs, as could Tendulkar, to bring the breakthrough or push the over rate, if needed. Yes, I suggest Harbhajan be rested, as he certainly seems to be lacking the confidence to bowl slow and flight the ball. Trent Bridge will not assist his style of flat and hit the wicket kind of spin bowling.

As to the batting unit, Yuvraj certainly brings his characteristic aggression. In the absence of Sehwag, he presents the ability to upset the rhythm of the English bowling unit. His past exploits against England, and particularly bowlers like the resurgent Stuart Broad could be critical in blunting the clinical efficiency of the four man bowling machine of England. With the rather painful injury to Gambhir's elbow, it maybe best not to force a partially fit batsman at the top of the order. Mukund has shown pluck, skill and temperament, and will do better with sorting out his one big technical niggle. English conditions show you up if your bat comes down anything but straight, as Mukund has learnt from both his dismissals at Lords.

In summary my Indian team for Trent Bridge is - Dhoni, Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Yuvraj, Raina, Mukund, Sreesanth, Munaf, Ishant and Mishra. While this may not be as far as Indian think tank will go, but would do well to think hard about the conditions and the opposition in addition to match fitness. The only remaining question is the opening pair, and I would go with Dravid, despite his low average as a test opener. He has the technique to deal with the pace and swing first up, which will be necessary to prevent an early loss when India bats.

Your comments and thoughts?

Happy Cricket watching!      
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