Nick Compton put two failures behind him to register his first significant score of the tour, and while 64 from 162 balls hardly suggested a batsman in form, it demonstrated an ability to grind out an innings. This may well be enough to get him the nod for the first Test, and assuming the England management have not changed their mantra, he should get the rest of the series to try and cement a partnership with new captain Cook. Joe Root was again out in the twenties, and if Compton is not selected, moving Jonathan Trott up the order may be a better bet rather than exposing Root to the harsh conditions of the subcontinent. If there is still a question mark at the top of the order after this series, New Zealand home and away could provide a more appropriate opportunity for Root to stake his claim.
With the return of Kevin Petersen, the England middle order is looking promising. Admittedly Ian Bell could have used at least a fifty in the warm-up games, but he did manage an unbeaten 28 against Mumbai A. Jonny Bairstow and Samit Patel have both made hundreds, Eoin Morgan and Matt Prior have both passed 50, and Pietersen does not normally need a run of good scores to pull out a spectacular innings when it matters most. Patel’s versatility could see him get the nod in the lower middle order, which would free up a bowling spot if Monty Panesar is no longer needed as the second spinner. Broad, Swann and Bresnan would make for a strong tail, although Panesar could be a better bet for the longer spells of bowling that are invariably required when touring India.
England’s bowlers have hardly had the ideal run up to the Test series. Steven Finn will miss the first Test with a thigh strain, although Stuart Broad’s heel injury appears to be less serious and he should be able to take his place in the side. If Patel is preferred to Bairstow then he will act as the second spinner, although there is always the option of bolstering the batting through Bairstow and using Kevin Pietersen as a back-up to Swann. Tim Bresnan has proven to be a reliable workhorse when the going gets tough and would represent a sensible choice alongside Broad and Jimmy Anderson in the fast bowling department. Graham Onions has done well to force himself back into the reckoning, and with Stuart Meaker flying out to provide cover for Finn, there are plenty of options available.
The final warm-up game, against Haryana on Thursday, will provide the last opportunity for those on the periphery to make their case for inclusion in the Test side. With players beginning to adapt to the conditions, those not being rested will be looking to build on the first two games and hit some form over the four days. As has been shown on previous tours, England are not afraid of the “horses for courses” approach, and this may yet determine which eleven takes to the field in Ahmedabad. India have also named their squad for the first two Tests, with the return of Yuvraj Singh after his successful fight against cancer a particular highlight. MS Dhoni has a fifteen man squad to choose from, as he seeks to avenge the 4-0 thumping suffered by his side at the hands of England last summer.
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BIOGRAPHY: Marcus Rashford