Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Preview- England versus India, 4th Test, The Oval

Shockingly, for most, if not all pundits, who looked at this series before it started. We arrive at the 4th Test with England being 3 nil up, and it essentially being a dead rubber. The main interest will revolve around whether England can maintain the intensity and whitewash the Indians, now that everything they set out to achieve has been recognised. Or whether they will experience a little let down, and allow India to compete in this Test


Likely Team:

The English are still lacking the services of both Jonathon Trott and Chris Tremlett, and have doubts over James Anderson. So Ravi Bopara gets another chance, but a lot were hoping that the precocious young batsman in James Taylor might be preferred. Thus this will be the likely Team:

Strauss, Cook, Bell, Pietersen, Morgan, Bopara, Prior, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson

Prospects in the Test

This could be England's greatest challenge, so far in the series. In the regard of maybe finding it hard to get themselves to that relentless force they have been in the series with this essentially being a dead rubber. Then also the Oval pitch will favour the Indian batsmen, who have struggled so mightily on this tour with it to be very batting friendly.

The Team throughout this series, as a collective group have been exceptional. The slight concern over the form of the openers was blown away in the previous Test with Strauss getting runs, and Cook filling his boots with 294.

As we enter this finale, the only real concern is over the lack of penetration of Graeme Swann throughout the series. It has been covered by the complete and utter domination of the English seamers over the Indian batsmen. 

Though 4 wickets at an average of 80.25 doesn't look good for one with the reputation of Swann.


Likely Team

The Indians in truth are shell shocked, and maybe counting the seconds to get out of England. They have been basically blown away in every regard of the game. So there will be changes to the Team, but an altered mindset would be more beneficial, that has been lacking all series. Sadly one of the few who has put everything into the series in Praveen Kumar might miss due to injury. So this is the likely Team

Gambhir, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Kohli, Dhoni, Mishra, Ishant, Munaf, Sreesanth

Prospects in the Test

The main focus has been on the inability of the Indian bowling to threaten the English batting in any way. Which is a justified point, but bowling has never been India's strength through its years at the top, and with the injuries to its leaders in Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. It has been seriously weakened

More condemnation should be focussed on a batting line up, that has a reputation of being one of the best in the games history. Though in this series hasn't scored above 300.

Only Rahul Dravid has stood up, with these being the others averages

Gautam Gambhir: 2 Tests, 22,25 (career average 49.59)

Virender Sehwag: 1 Test- a king pair (dual golden ducks)

Sachin Tendulkar: 3 Tests, average 26.50 (career average 56.25)

VVS Laxman: 3 Tests, average 26 (career average 46.64)

Suresh Raina: 3 Tests, average 17.50 (career average 32.27)

So looking at that, in this series, 4 of the top 6 is about 100 runs down on their usual contributions to innings. That's not including Virender Sehwag too. Who duly had the excuse of playing his first match since the IPL, but looked totally at sea against the swinging ball. Which his struggles in similarly swinging conditions throughout his career has shown.

Thus, the strength of India's game in its batting has been rendered impotent.

This game will offer it a better chance for it to perform with the batting friendly confines of The Oval coupled with an expected drop off in English intensity. The question will be, whether it can improve enough to support its weak bowling, and duly put some pressure on the English. 

Another key part of the Indian performance, that has been appalling is its usually sound fielding. The bowling being as weak as it is combined with little support in the field is the main reason why India is facing a white wash in the series.

We thought about focussing on the incompetent Captaincy by M.S.Dhoni, but don't feel like frustrating myself to the point of feeling the need to pour a double Scotch at 10 am in the morning!

Needless to say, that for the brilliant leader he is in the shorter forms of the game. He is the antithesis in the traditional game, and if he wasn't such a protected species should be sacked

My Odds in the Test

I think this Test will be closer, for of the batting friendly conditions and an expected drop in intensity from the English. This being said, I can't see any way India can beat England, but can see them being able to scrounge a draw.

So these are my odds

English win: 70%

Draw: 29%

India Win: 1%

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