Preview: First Test, India v England


The time has arrived at last. After months of build-up, Kevin Pietersen speculation, debates about England's batting and pondering about Yuvraj Singh's return, we're finally ready for the first Test in Ahmedabad.

The time has arrived at last. After months of build-up, Kevin Pietersen speculation, debates about England's batting and pondering about Yuvraj Singh's return, we're finally ready for the first Test in Ahmedabad.

The last time these sides faced each other in a Test series, England demolished India by four games to nil, albeit on Blighty soil. India have played down the revenge angle ahead of this encounter, but it will surely add a bit of spice.

Alastair Cook is taking charge of his first Test series in one of the most difficult countries to tour, and he's had to cope with all manner of distractions leading up to this trip, coping admirably and calmly all the while. Now his batting must hold up the challenge too.

England's team is hardly set in stone at the moment, as we wait to see who will open the batting alongside Cook. Joe Root or, more probably, Nick Compton? The latter has scored three fifties in the warm-up games on this tour, and it would be surprising if he's not handed his debut.

The middle order is also an interesting question, as Samit Patel has been wonderful in the warm up games as a batsman, scoring a ton and a few fifties. Pietersen is back and will bat at four, one presumes, while Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow are set to take the other spots.

As for England's bowlers, Steve Finn has been ruled out with a thigh injury that has failed to heal in time, while Stuart Broad will play but with a just-recovered heel. This means Tim Bresnan is likely to replace Finn and add an extra batting option, though Stuart Meaker could also play.

As for India, Yuvraj will be making his Test return after battling cancer earlier in the year, and all eyes will be on him to see how his fitness holds up. His bowling has been his stronger feature since his return to the limited overs scene, but how well will he cope with two days in the field.

At the top of the order, India will be desperate for Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir to come good, the duo having had a rough year so far. Their doing well will take the pressure off the excellent Virat Kohli to score all the runs.

England's players have never contested a game on this wicket, and the last time a game was played here it ended in a high-scoring draw. The weather is clear for all five days, so here's hoping for a cracker of a game.

<b>Key Men</b><br><b>India</b>: While this wicket has been good to batsmen, all eyes will still be on spinner Ravi Ashwin. He's been prolific this year on home soil, while England's players have a well-documented weakness against the tweakers, so it will be an interesting battle.

On the batting front, one imagines Virat Kohli will come to the party. He's never batted here in a Test, but his last three Test knocks saw him score two fifties and a ton. He will be the man England will gun for, and he will gun for them in return.

<b>England</b>: England may not have a top class spin duo, but they do have one premier spinner in Graeme Swann. He will be key to this game, given India batsmen's proficiency at playing spin, so he will need to be in top form. On hopes his elbow niggle is a thing of the past, at least for now.

The batting side of things sees Kevin Pietersen as the man to beat. He scored a ton here in the warm up game against Haryana a few days ago, though it wasn't the same wicket. He likes playing in India, and has a good record on the sub-continent. He will need to make more than one flashy contribution to the series though.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>Fourth Test, 18-22 August 2011, England won by an inns and 8 runs at the Oval.<br>Third Test, 10-13 August 2011, England won by an inns and 242 runs at Birmingham.<br>Second Test, 29 July-1 August 2011, England won by 319 runs at Nottingham.<br>First Test, 21-25 July 2011, England won by 196 runs at Lord's.<br>Second Test, 19-23 December 2008, game drawn at Mohali.


Both sides are eager to show that losing the number one ranking (India to England, then England to South Africa) in the past year and a half doesn't mean they're has-beens. There is a lot of pressure on India to make sure they win the series on home soil, while England need to forget about the loss to the Proteas and start a new chapter under new skipper Cook.

It's a tough one to call, but we're going to say that India will take advantage of the home conditions, and their superior spinners, to claim the win. If they do, England will have their work cut out to make a comeback.

<b>Probable Teams</b><br><b>India</b>: Guatam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Ravi Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha.

<b>England</b>: Alastair Cook, Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Matt Prior, Samit Patel, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson.

<b>Dates:</b> 15-19 November, Ahmedabad<br>Morning session: 04:00 GMT – 06:00<br>Afternoon session: 06:40 – 08:40<br>Evening session: 09:00 – 11:00<br>On-field umpires: Tony Hill, Aleem Dar<br>Match referee: Roshan Mahanama