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England vs India 1st Test Preview

Written by Rick John Henry for @HollywoodbetsFollow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

England vs India | Wednesday 09 June – Sunday 13 June | Trent Bridge, Nottingham | 12:00

A bruised and broken England, still in the throes of transition, must somehow move forward from recent disappointments to challenge an exciting, if unreliable, India. A deep rivalry exists between these two nations and with ties strengthened by last year’s ICC shake-up, a five Test series awaits. However, all of them will be completed within a six-week window, meaning both sides have a gruelling schedule to overcome to emerge victorious. The visitors seem calm and unbothered by the tour; they have gone about their warm-up fixtures with minimal fuss and intensity and it will be a settled unit that seeks redemption for a lost home series, preceded by a whitewash on English soil in 2011. Only three of the 18-man squad was involved in that disastrous tour and with inexperience comes a lack of mental scarring.

To Win 
England 31/20
Draw 13/10
India 28/10

In the aftermath of another disappointing series loss, it has been decided that what the players need most is rest ahead of the five Test matches. Ten of the eleven that took to the field for the second Test against Sri Lanka have been withdrawn from county duty. Ironically, Moeen Ali batted all of the fifth day in an attempt to save England the Test match but will be in operation for his county side, primarily to lock down more bowling time. Yet Matt Prior, who was extremely shaky with the gloves against Sri Lanka, gets to put his feet up. What will be of most concern to the English camp is the jaded look about the team, particularly in the seam department. It seems less about physical weariness, more about consistent pressure. Above all, England will need to expel the culture of fatigue that has proceeded to grip the team, lest it become the England way.

No-one will be feeling the mental pressures of the game as acutely as English captain Alastair Cook. The embattled opener has come under fire from all corners; his captaincy, form and character have all been brought into question. In the midst of England’s recent defeats Cook has not lead from the front and has not scored a century in 24 Test innings. However, a silver lining exists. He averages over 50.00 against India and thrives in challenge against the subcontinental rivals. While many are likely expecting the first half of the English summer to be full of swing and seam movement, the pitches in England are not quite the same as they were three years ago. Updated drainage systems have left them largely dry and the batsmen may have the best of this Test series. But if the English seamers are going to find assistance anywhere, it will be at Trent Bridge.

A large Indian touring party arrived in England with some extra time to acclimatise ahead of this important series. India named an 18-man squad and speculation of the reasoning behind the bloated camp range from injury cover to rotational changes for a long series. India have not played a five Test series in more than a decade and have not won a Test match abroad in three years. Doubts remain that the Indian attack have the ability to take twenty wickets, which is perhaps another explanation for India packing away seven seam bowlers for the tour. Zaheer Khan has been left out, though it unclear whether it is through injury or whether he has been dropped.

In any event, Ishant Sharma is now the senior member and expected to lead the attack but his performances in India’s two warm-up fixtures leave much to be desired. He has bowled a plethora of no balls, with his usual mixture of half-volleys, ones that sit up short and wide, and ones that are completely unplayable. No-one, least of all Ishant himself, knows where the ball is going to pitch next. Gautam Gambhir returns as batting cover, the only player besides MS Dhoni and Ishant to have played Test cricket in England. Wriddhiman Saha has been included as the reserve ‘keeper with all-rounder Stuart Binny winning an unprecedented call-up. Pankaj Singh in the surprise addition in the bowling ranks, a tall and powerful seamer with a fantastic domestic record. If he starts, he’ll set a record for being the Indian bowler with the most first-class wickets before debut, 300. The Test attack earmarked to pepper England have been flayed in the warm-up fixtures and doubts still remain over India’s final combination. Additionally, Ashwin has stated he is uncomfortable playing a holding role as a spinner, opening the door for Ravi Jadeja.

Trent Bridge is known to be a lively wicket for seamers, particularly with some cloud cover overhead. The weather conditions will play a big part in the decision at the toss, the pitch covered with a straw-coloured grass that could be helpful for bowlers on the opening morning. England’s record in Nottingham is second-to-none, having won their last five Tests at the ground and their last eight in ten attempts dating back to 2003. However, the last Test they lost at Trent Bridge was in 2007 at the hands of India. There is plenty of rain on the horizon, but don’t let that put you off a match-winner.

BEST: Top England 1st Innings Batsman, Ian Bell 33/10
Runs are hard to come by at Trent Bridge, but in the past Ian Bell has excelled. He’s priced up as favourite for runs for a reason, two centuries at the ground in recent times show that Bell has the game to succeed on the seamer friendly wicket. Don’t look any further than the nuggety Englishman.

VERDICT: England 31/20
Draws are few and far between in Nottingham and the threat of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad should swing this in England’s favour. They have been prolific at the ground and are tipped to thrive again. This won’t be another whitewash for India but they will likely pay for their pre-Test complacency in the warm-up fixtures. England are at a great price, get on.

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