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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

England Back to the Wall

England are up against a well rested and eager Indian side on home turf. They start the test series in Ahmedabad on what will undoubtedly be a slow low turner, left to bake without covers in the past few days.

The humiliation of India in the English summer of 2011 still fresh in the minds of several Indian stalwarts. This is a grudge series, make no mistake. Dhoni's press interviews highlight the respect that teams must accord to their oppositions, something the Indians missed in the England last year.

The odds are stacked against England. Never mind the past track record or the time spent on the crease in the warm up games, nothing will matter when the first ball is bowled at Ahmedabad. The challenge for the English batting line up will be truly testing.

The last two tours of the subcontinent by England, against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, have been rather forgettable. Much tougher for them to digest was the recent plastering on home soil at the hands of the South Africans. Not only dis the Proteas displace England at the top spot, Graeme Smith claimed his third England skipper, when Andrew Strauss retired after the series, leaving Alistair Cook in-charge. Effectively England go into this series certainly a lot less confident than at any point in the past 18 months.

The relative absence of spin in the tour warm up games has left England wondering what to make of their acclimatisation process. While much of the talk is about spin, reverse swing will play a key role in this series. The series could well be the perfect sign off for Zaheer Khan. The combination of R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha will exert real pressure, the moment the shine is off. Yuvraj Singh has made a big comeback, in more ways than one, after a poor test series down under. He will be an added slow bowling option for Dhoni, to keep attacking.

Sachin Tendulkar, M S Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag will want to re-assert themselves on the English bowlers. The purple patch of Virat Kohli, if it continues, the Indian number three will make England pay in familiar conditions.

England have Kevin Pietersen, back and in good nick, debutant Nick Compton, skipper Alistair Cook and dependable Jonathan Trott, all looking to make the backbone of the batting line up. I suspect Ian Bell and Samit Patel will struggle in the test series. Key to playing long innings, as it always is in the sub-continent, the English batsmen will have to keep rotating the strike, avoiding pressure build up.

Test match cricket is about taking 20 opposition wickets, and in this series India look like the team better equipped to do so. Would it be a 4-0 whitewash? Maybe not, but I'm thinking 3-0.

The DRS will come up in conversation at least twice in each session of play. That is one prediction that you can bank on.

What do you think?

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