Thursday, July 21, 2011

England Versus India

England will take the field at Lords today against India with aspirations to become the number one Test team in the World. It is a very tough task in that they need to win the series first and foremost and that they need to do so by two tests. Even with England at their best, the great British summer, a penchant for flatter pitches from the ECB and the quality of opposition mean it is a big ask. It is not impossible however.

England currently have stability throughout their line up, strength in depth (especially in the bowling department) and a large amount of self belief. In Cook and Trott they have two of the form batsmen in World cricket and they have a genuine pace attack to be feared with fierce competition for places.

Trott in particular seems to have solved a particular English riddle in taking the number three position which has been a problem since Robin Smith lost form. Whilst he is no Tendulkar or Ponting, his accumulation of runs and time at the crease are priceless and along with Cook, he has laid the foundation for much of England's recent success. There are however concerns such as the form of Strauss and the continued lack of application from Kevin Pietersen who whilst continuing to excite, disappoints in far larger measures. Should Strauss find some form and Cook and Trott retain theirs then England could set some formidable scores during the series. England now have the ability to score runs down the order with Matt Prior now far more than a poor man's Adam Gilchrist.

In the bowling department, should Jimmy Anderson and co be able to find some seam and swing then the likes of Virender Sehwag should find it tough going against genuine lateral movement. Swann provides a good spin option and it looks a well balanced attack. Should Stuart Broad be selected, it is imperative that he moves his length to just short of one where he would become a true force to reckon with. It will be interesting to see whether he or Bresnan gets the nod for the first test.

For India, Tendulkar will be on the hunt for his hundredth international hundred and it would be fitting for it to happen at Lords where he has until now had little success. Sehwag will have to work hard to counter the lateral movement but in Dravid, Laxman, Gambhir, Dhoni and co they have incredible talent and almost limitless strength in depth.

Much of the talk surrounding India always focuses on the batting but it is their bowlers that possibly hold the key to the series. Their efforts in Taunton were woeful and one can only hope they were keeping their powder dry for tougher tests to come. Should Zaheer and his supporting cast find some form then England will have a tough time ahead of them to win the series.

Both teams have highly talented captains but India in M.S. Dhoni have one who is already one of the all time greats. Captaining the India cricket team is akin to being a President and many fine players have found it several steps too far. Dhoni however has revelled in it winning everything there is to win and taking India to the top of the rankings. His decision in the World Cup final to move himself up the order despite being short of runs and with India in deep trouble was one of the best and bravest tactical decisions this blog has seen in any sport and he deserves all the plaudits that come his way.

Strauss has knitted the English group into a team that is greater than the sum of its' parts. The 2005 team was a fine side but it had much ego and individuality in the shape of the young Pietersen, Flintoff and Harmison. Vaughan did much to marry their talents in the same way Strauss does now but there is a sense that Pietersen aside this team is much more of a group. The current team only suffers in comparison by not having a true all rounder whilst the 2005 team had a great one. This team does however have a real spin option and a far superior wicketkeeper/batsman.

How Strauss uses that talent at his disposal will do much to decide the series. There is much talk of his being too cautious as a captain and against an opposite number with the guile and aggression of Dhoni that simply will not do. Dhoni will at all times go for the jugular and should Strauss fail to do the same then he may find that the number one ranking will not be his. England need to win convincingly and to do that he must be bold. Our prediction however for this series is a one-one draw with some fine cricket from both sides - No Nonsense.