Stern Test for England at Mohali (Preview)

December 18th, 2008 - 5:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Mohali, Dec 18 (IANS) The reasons for the reluctance on part of the England cricket team to play at one of the best cricket grounds in India, the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium here, are not far to seek. A major factor for their reluctance could be the two massive defeats they suffered on this ground on their last two tours.The England and Wales Cricket Board had told the Board of Control for Cricket in India that they prefer to play the two Tests preferably in Chennai and Bangalore in the backdrop of the Mumbai terror attacks. The reason cited for their unwillingness to play at Mohali was its ‘proximity to Pakistan’.

The real reason could be cricketing as they were crushed at this venue by 10 wickets in 2001 and by nine wickets in 2006.

Coming from a six-wicket defeat in the Chennai Test, despite dominating the proceedings for nearly four days, England are all the more wary of Mohali.

The England side has said that it wants to go into this match “with a positive frame of mind.”

Their confidence stems from the fact that the wintry conditions would suit their pace attack better than the hot and humid weather did in Chennai.

Though their track record at this ground indicates otherwise as they had lost both their earlier Tests here in winter months, December and March.

England though will be happy with their performance in Chennai. Their mainline batsmen are in good touch. Opener Andrew Strauss knocked two centuries in the match while Paul Collingwood scored a hundred in the second innings. The team looks a much better outfit compared to the one-day side that lost 5-0.

India, on the other hand, would be high on confidence after chasing 387, the biggest ever in the subcontinent, with ease. With Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir coming out with blazing guns, the side is invariably getting good starts. Its worry, however, is the crumbling wall Rahul Dravid.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said the batting order will be re-shuffled, giving enough indication that Dravid might come down the order.

Local boy Yuvraj Singh, who guided India to victory with century-maker Sachin Tendulkar in the Chennai Test, will strive to prove that it was not a flash in the pan.

India will surely miss former captain Anil Kumble who scalped eight and nine England wickets in the two previous Tests here.

The spin department looks in good shape with Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra taking three wickets each in England’s first innings in Chennai, though they were a disappointment in the second innings when the pitch was assisting spinners.

Mishra had impressed with a five-wicket haul on his debut against Australia here and would be looking to carry that form into this Test.

But for the England side, the spin department continues to be a worry. Spinner Monty Panesar was unimpressive in Chennai. England will also have to work out changes in the team to accommodate fast bowler Stuart Broad.

In the batting department, in-form Owais Shah could get a look in over Ian Bell who struggled for runs at one drop.

Dhoni has a hundred per cent captaincy record, winning all four Tests, including the one here against Australia in October. India had convincingly beaten the world’s best Test side by 320 runs.

Despite having got fewer days to prepare the pitch, PCA curator Daljit Singh is confident that it will play well.

“We will be using the same track on which the India-Australia played,” Singh said here.

“In the early hours, the pitch will be helpful for the seam bowlers. Conditions here are entirely different from Chennai as temperature is low and there are winds blowing in the morning that will provide an ideal condition for swing bowlers. There is a problem drying the pitch because of moisture in the morning hours,” the curator said.

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