India v England: Lessons learned from the tourists’ final warm-up game
India v England: Matt Cansick looks at the talking points from the tourists' final warm-up game against Haryana
Opening debate resolved
With England’s preparations for the first Test now complete, the potential selection dilemma at the top of the order appears to have become a straightforward decision. Nick Compton has hit form at the perfect time, following up a gritty 64 n.o. against Mumbai A with two solid knocks against Haryana. He posted 74 in the first innings and 79 in the second to suggest he has now adapted to the conditions, and even thought the quality of bowling will be markedly higher against India, there is nothing like a decent run of scores to boost confidence. With Alastair Cook at the other end, and the obdurate Jonathan Trott next up in the order, he will not be short of experienced partners to guide him through his first taste of Test cricket.
Batting looking strong
Trott was the latest England batsman to register a century, retiring on 101. All of the batsmen expected to play in Ahmedabad on Thursday have registered at least a fifty, and there is further potential down the order from what should be a strong looking tail. Compton now has three fifties on the bounce, and if the top three can get England off to a solid start, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior in particular have the ability to turn a decent score into an imposing total. Further encouragement comes from the fact that the top seven all made at least 40 in the first innings against Haryana, with Pietersen retiring on 110 and Cook falling just short of a ton with 97. Big runs are crucial in India, and Cook will be hoping to win the toss as often as possible to as to give his bowlers plenty to work with.
Bowling line up only major decision
Graeme Swann is expected to rejoin the England squad on Monday, having briefly returned home to care for his ill daughter. As England’s front line spinner, he is likely to be supported by Samit Patel who will supplement the batting line up. Steven Finn and Stuart Broad have come through fitness tests on their respective injuries, and the only decision now appears to be who will fill the final fast bowling spot. Tim Bresnan would offer further depth to the batting line up, having recorded his Test best score of 91 in Bangladesh two years ago. Even if this is the way England choose to go, Finn could find himself given an opportunity later in a series that is likely to be very physically demanding in the extreme heat.
Fresh start for England
After a difficult series against South Africa, and having apparently put the tumult surrounding Kevin Pietersen behind them, England head into the first Test looking to get the Alastair Cook era off to a good start. No longer carrying the burden of being ranked the number one Test side, they now face the challenge of trying to regain the title of best in the world. Andy Flower masterminded their previous ascent with Andrew Strauss as captain, and the majority of the squad now know what it takes to reach the summit. India are going through a transitional phase of their own, following Rahul Dravid’s retirement and with Sachin Tendulkar surely not far from the end of his international career. It promises to be an enthralling series.