India will go into third Test with No.1 Test ranking at stake

August 9th, 2011 - 8:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Harbhajan Singh Birmingham, Aug 9 (IANS) Down 0-2 in the four-Test series, India’s reputation as fearsome fighters and their World No.1 ranking will be on the line when they square up against England in the third cricket Test match here Wednesday.

Having lost at Lord’s and Trent Bridge Tests, India are in a must-win situation to stay as champion Test side. If they lose, it is all over for them. Even if they win the last Test, their two-year reign at the top will come to an end and elevate England to the number one position for the first time after the rankings were introduced.

It will be a tough task for the visitors to bounce back as they continue to struggle for form and injuries to key players. Even the stats are against them, having lost four of the five Tests at Edgbaston while England have a decent record of winning 23 of their 45 Tests here.

After the second Test, India lost three of their key players to injuries — bowling spearhead Zaheer Khan, spinner Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh — and they are out of not only Test series but the one-dayers, too.

Though Harbhajan was out of form, Zaheer’s absence will be a big blow to India’s chances. In the first two Tests, India were a bowler short and the burden was too much for three bowlers to share.

It is to their credit, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Shantakumaran Sreesanth bowled their hearts out and created opportunities — England were 124/8 in the first innings of the second Test. But it is the batting that let the team down, specially at Trent Bridge.

Rahul Dravid and V.V.S.Laxman are the only two batsmen to show application and technique to handle the seaming ball. Dravid is going through a purple patch with centuries in both Tests — his third in five matches. Laxman made a classy 54 in the first innings at Nottingham. Sachin Tendulkar, still in search of his 100th international hundred, looked in good touch in the second innings scoring 56, and he would be fired up here.

The other mainline batsmen surrendered meekly to the high quality England seam attack.

The return of Virender Sehwag is a big relief for the team. The marauding opener was recovering from a shoulder surgery and missed the first two Tests. He struggled to find his feet in the two-day match at Northamptonshire. India would hope for Sehwag to get going for he can dominate the opposition on his own.

Sehwag’s opening partner Gautam Gambhir, who missed the second Test with an elbow injury, looked uncomfortable at the crease at Lord’s. Abhinav Mukund, who was filling in for Sehwag at the top, scored a century at Northampton, but is most likely to sit out.

Suresh Raina is another worry as he has not given a good account of himself and his weakness against the rising delivery was exploited by the English bowlers.

The Edgbaston pitch has acquired the reputation to be bowler-friendly, particularly the slower bowlers this season, skipper Dhoni felt on the eve of the game that the top looked green and did not rule out playing four seamers depending on the conditions.

Ishant, Sreesanth and Munaf Patel should be the frontline bowlers on a green pitch unless the team management decides to try out left-arm pacer R.P.Singh for variety.

Leg-spinner Amit Mishra is likely to take Harbhajan’s place, though they have a choice in left-arm Pragyan Ojha, Harbhajan’s replacement.

England are on a roll and everything has gone right for Andrew Strauss and his men.

The bowling attack of Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Tim Bresnan made the most of the conditions, and off-spinner Graeme Swann did not have much to do. The biggest plus point for England is that their batting runs deep down the order and that made up for the failure of top order and the frail middle.

Broad has come good with the bat and ball. He has scored 182 runs at an average of 60.66 and is also the highest wicket-taker (15).

Ravi Bopara could be the only addition in the team, coming in for injured Jonathan Trott.

Teams (from):
England: Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior (wicket-keeper), Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Steven Finn.

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain & wicket-keeper), Gautam Gambhir, Abhinav Mukund, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Suresh Raina, Pragyan Ojha, Praveen Kumar, R.P. Singh, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Munaf Patel, Wriddhiman Saha, S. Sreesanth.

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