India tour of England, 3rd Test: England v India at Birmingham, Aug 10-14, 2011
Match scheduled to begin at 11:00 local time (10:00 GMT, 3:30 PMIST)
For the first time in his captaincy tenure Mahendra Singh Dhoni has lost two consecutive tests to bring him to the brink of his maiden test series defeat. Such has been the dominance of the English side that even the World Cup winning captain, considered one of the shrewdest thinkers in world cricket, has looked out of his depth. In his own words everything that could have gone wrong, has for the tourists, and now with whispers of a 4-0 whitewash doing rounds, they need a turnaround of massive proportions to change their fortunes. On the other hand, England have had a near perfect series thus far. Everytime they have been under pressure, they have fought back like champions to rescue the situation, and there is no dearth of heroes in this exceptional side.
There is mixed news for the Indian fans heading into the 3rd Test at Edgbaston. The return of one of the most successful opening combinations in Indian Test history, VirenderSehwag and GautamGambhir, will certainly be a big boost to the side. However, the news that pace spearhead Zaheer Khan has broken down again, after bowling just 3 overs in the practice match against Northamptonshire, will be a huge blow. Zaheer is out of the rest of the Tour and will be replaced by RP Singh, who had an excellent Test series the last time India toured England. However, with a 4 man pace-attack already at his disposal it is unlikely that RP Singh will be thrust into action immediately.
Ravi Bopara has been drafted into the England squad in place of the injured Jonathan Trott, who given his recent run of form, is likely to be sorely missed. Other than the absence of Trott, England really are well blessed in all departments. They bat all the way down to no.10 and their bowling has variety, quality and bench strength.
The home side’s top order has been a bit shaky at times this series. The openers haven’t been at their best and have faced problems against the moving ball. While the prolific Ashes scorer Alastair Cook is yet to put up a decent score against the Indians, skipper Andrew Strauss hasn’t been able to convert the starts into anything substantial. With Jonathan Trott ruled out of the third test, the technically compact Ian Bell is expected move up the order to strengthen the top third. Even though Kevin Pietersen is slowly returning back to his best, the presence of inconsistent Ravi Bopara and the erratic Irishman Eoin Morgan has left a few chinks that can be exploited. But the hunger for runs shown by wicketkeeper batsman Matt Prior and the long English tail has masked the failures of their regular batsmen.
England’s bowling has been outstanding in the series so far and they have been all over the famed Indian batting lineup, not once allowing the unit to go past 300. While the leader of the pack, James Anderson has been consistently asking questions, the player of the series so far, Stuart Broad has been a revelation. The 5 wicket haul of Tim Bresnan on the fourth day of the second test has given England the problem of plenty as Chris Tremlett has recovered from his injury and is available for the third test. The only concern now is the form of Graeme Swann, who was cantered around by the Indians on his home ground. But Swann, considered the best exponent of his craft at the moment, should be able to bounce back in Edgbaston as conditions will be slightly more helpful.
The visitors failed to utilize the tour game against Northamptonshire to their advantage with AbhinavMukund the only man scoring any runs and AmitMishra the sole person with respectable bowling figures. Now the Indians must pull up their socks as they look to avert their first series defeat since 2008.
The familiar sight of VirenderSehwag and GautamGambhir opening the innings will be a welcome relief to the Indian camp. While Sehwag possesses the ability to tear apart any attack and shift the momentum back India’s way, Gambhir’s calmness has proven to be the perfect foil. India would be looking towards the left-right duo to put up a big opening stand on which they can build a huge score. RahulDravid has been his usual solid self and the only Indian batsman who has been able to resist Anderson & Co. SachinTendulkar and VVSLaxman managed half centuries in the second test, but they need to convert them into triple figure scores to put the England team under pressure. The inability of Suresh Raina and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to handle the fast bowlers in seaming conditions and the contribution of the tail, which has been next to nothing, has meant that the tourists have often squandered their advantage after taking an early lead. India might just consider drafting in an in-form Mukund at no.6 instead of Raina, who looks nowhere near having the technique or the temperament for these kinds of conditions.
While the batmen are struggling for form, the bowlers are doing overtime, playing each match a bowler short. With Zaheer Khan’s tour coming to a premature end, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma and S Sreesanth, all of whom did a reasonable job are likely to continue to be India's first choice seamers. In the absence of Harbhajan Singh, AmitMishra should make it to the playing XI ahead of PragyanOjha owing to England’s traditional problems with leg spinners.
|AJ Strauss*, AN Cook, JM Anderson, IR Bell, RS Bopara, TTBresnan, SCJ Broad, ST Finn, EJG Morgan, KPPietersen, MJ Prior†, GP Swann|
|MS Dhoni*†, G Gambhir, R Dravid, V Kohli, P Kumar, VVSLaxman, A Mishra, A Mukund, PP Ojha, MM Patel, SK Raina, WP Saha†, V Sehwag, I Sharma, RP Singh, S Sreesanth, SR Tendulkar|