England out to challenge India’s Test supremacy (Preview)

July 20th, 2011 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Sachin Tendulkar London, July 20 (IANS) India are the No.1 cricketing nation in every respect and England are out to challenge this on the field in a cracker of a four-Test series that gets underway at Lord’s Thursday. It’ll be the 100th Test between the two nations and the 2,000th of the cricket world.

Hype or no hype, the series should produce enthralling cricket between world’s two best teams. India have been the No.1 team for two years now, and they would like to perform worthy of their status.

India have come here straight from 1-0 series win in the Caribbean and they are bolstered by the return of Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and pace bowling spearhead Zaheer Khan, who all missed the West Indies series.

England have gone through a metamorphosis under captain Andrew Staruss and coach Andy Flower. They are high on form since Ashes triumph last year and firmly believe they have the potential to snatch the No.1 Test ranking.

In the only warm up game against Somerset in which Strauss batted himself into form, India had a difficult time with the bat and ball. They were struggling at 138/8 in the first innings before Suresh Raina’s century saved them the blushes.

With that knock, Raina has more or less elbowed out flamboyant Yuvraj Singh for the No.5 spot.

In the absence of Virender Sehwag, who is expected to join the side for the third Test, opener Abhinav Mukund join Gambhir in an all-left-hand opening combination. Despite his impressive knocks in the West Indies, he needs to tighten his game against the rising ball on pitches which can be dicey.

Gambhir, a prolific scorer in the last few season, is coming back after a shoulder injury. A lot will thus depend on the experienced trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, who possibly are here one last time as players.

Tendulkar has rediscovered the carefree exuberance of his youth in the last one year in all formats. In 15 Tests, he slammed eight centuries, including two double hundreds.

Tendulkar has the small task of reaching his 100th international century and he is equally aware of his poor record at Lord’s, his highest being a mere 37. The air is thick with expectancy that the the maestro will finally make it to the Lord’s honours board with a century at the Mecca of cricket.

Dravid, who scored heavily in the 2002 series but was weighed down by captaincy in the 2007 series that India won 1-0, will be looking to make amends for the missed opportunities on the previous tour.

Laxman is still to savour a century in the English weather. The stylish Hyderabadi has played some remarkable match-winning knocks, including three 50s in the West Indies before coming here.

England’s strength is their bowling, which offers plenty of variety. James Anderson has rightfully emerged as the leader of the pack and Chris Tremlett is touted as the one who can trouble the Indian batsmen with his steep rising deliveries and probing line. The 6′8” tall Tremlett was the top wicket taker in the series (15) against Sri Lanka followed by Graeme Swann (12) and Stuart Broad (8).

It will be a treat to watch offie Swann, considered the best spinner in the world, bowl against the best players of spin.

Pacer Tim Bresnan, who sat out of the Sri Lanka series will add teeth to the English attack, but Broad is likely to get the nod for the third seamer’s place.

In batting, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell are in excellent touch and slammed two centuries each against Sri Lanka. Jonathan Trott is equally in good shape. The only man out of form is Strauss, whose knocks in the tour game against India, will give him much needed confidence.

Former India captain Dravid doesn’t like to call it a match between the best batting and the best bowling sides.

“I don’t like to say that we are the best batting side and they are best bowling side in the world. At the end of the day it is contest between India and England. That is the important thing. Who is the best and who is not the best? At the end of the day, we have got a strong batting line up, the series will be decided may be that contest,” Dravid said.

For India, Zaheer, who played an important role in the 2007 series win here, will lead the attack. Lot will depend on Ishant Sharma, who claimed 22 wickets in the series against West Indies.

The third seamer will be a toss up between Munaf Patel and Praveen Kumar, though Shantakumaran Sreesanth on his day can be devastating and can extract a lot out of the English conditions. Prave’n’s swing that fetched him 12 wickets in the West Indies can tilt the scales in his favour, unless Dhoni is looking for Patel to keep one end tight with his nagging line and length.

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