Test cricket made a lukewarm return this week with a match between Australia and South Africa which turned out to be less interesting than a collection of Starsailor’s B-sides. Attention now turns to the subcontinent where India will look to avenge 2011’s absolute tatering at the hands of an England team who are aiming to be the first from these shores to win a series in India since 1984. A simpler time when Britain was rocking to the sounds of Nik Kershaw. Some would say a better time. He’d still show N-Dubz what’s what, even these days.
It’s no secret that Indian pitches habitually favour spin bowling, and equally no secret that England are frankly horrendous at facing anyone who even threatens to turn the ball off the square. Including Sulieman Benn. With that in mind, Duncan Fletcher is sure to favour two specialist spinners; Ravichandran Ashwin and Praghan Ojha are expected to see off the challenge from 54 year old Harbhajan Singh, with the returning Yuvraj Singh providing additional support thanks to his own brand of left arm filth, which will please Kevin Pietersen no end.
We’re pleased to see Yuvraj back in the fold after his health problems; he always seems a good egg despite his occasional penchant for sporting an appalling mullet. Tip for Mr Singh: give Nik Kershaw’s barber a call. Despite poor recent returns, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir will continue their fat man/less fat man double act at the top of the order, and Virat Kohli will have the weight of a nation on his shoulders as he carries the burden of expectation following the retirements of Messrs Dravid and Laxman. Oh, and some guy called Tendulkar is playing.
The warm-up games have been steady rather than either spectacularly great or awful for England. Steven Finn has failed to shake off his thigh injury sustained in the very first game of the tour and his place is likely to go to Tim Bresnan. The Yorkshire man has seemed slightly out of sorts for some time now, regardless of which format he has played and will be keen to re-establish his credentials, particularly while the presence of Graham Onions looms menacingly (some would say quite beautifully) on the sidelines. Matt Prior has recovered from illness and Stuart Broad has been bowling at full pace in the nets, so both should take their respective spots in the team.
And now for the words which a few short months ago would have shaken fear into the whole of the 51allout office: SAMIT PATEL IS LIKELY TO PLAY. In all fairness, while we’re still more than happy to mock his waistline, club standard bowling and shocking taste in music – Gomez will never be anything more than jazz blues/blues jazz wannabes – he has shown good form with the bat in recent times, particularly with regard to playing against spin. Whisper it quietly, but a counter-attacking presence at six could be crucial for the tourists in this series. Please forget this sentence if and when he bows out with a series average of 7.80 and gets dropped for Eoin Morgan. Nick Compton is likely to get the nod ahead of Joe Root to partner captain Alastair Cook against the new ball. Bon chance, mon ami. Oh, and some guy called Pietersen is playing.
Well, it’s not likely to rain, which is something. It’s hard to look past India given England’s traditional problems on the sub-continent and their undoubted determination to put themselves into a strong position for the rest of the series. That said, the Indian batting line-up does seem rather flimsy these days without the reassuring presence of Dravid and the waning fortunes of the more senior men, and though Ashwin and Ojha are perfectly respectable bowlers in their own right, they’re not spinners who should really be striking terror into the hearts of international class batsmen. As the series hasn’t even started yet and hence our optimism has yet to be crushed like Holly Johnson’s solo career, we’ll predict a high-scoring draw. England will no doubt be buoyed by this given our track record.
Join us throughout the Test on Twitter @51allout and remember to catch our reviews of the day on this here site, if we remember to do them.