Wednesday 21 September 2011

India's 'Wall' well and truly breached

*Copied across from my previous blog, posted 3rd August 2011*

Cast your mind back two weeks, a much heralded Indian team arrives on English shores, rightful holders of the world number 1 Test ranking and coming off the back of an impressive series victory away in South Africa - a notoriously difficult place to go. In the Test arena, not to mention their limited overs prowess, India have swept aside all before them under the captaincy of MS Dhoni.

The foundations upon which this success has been built comes in the form of solid Indian willow, an opening pair that combines pyrotechnics with patience and class in the form of Virender Sehwag and Guatam Gambhir, reinforced by arguably the finest middle order that Test cricket has ever seen in Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, and VVS Laxman. With more than 30,000 Test runs between those three alone, it is plain to see the daunting task facing any bowling attack when attempting to remove them from the crease.

Their opponents for this highly anticipated Test series, England, have had significant success of their own during India's rise to dominance, winning a home Ashes series against Australia in 2009, finishing all square away in South Africa, the Holy Grail of an away series win in Australia in 2010/11, and a recent 1-0 series win at home against Sri Lanka.

Heading into this current series, with England needing a clear two Test win margin in order to usurp India as the number one Test ranked team, the question on the lips of most pundits was whether England's impressive bowling attack had the skill to consistently take 20 wickets against India's batting stalwarts. On the evidence of the first two Tests at Lord's and Trent Bridge...the answer is unequivocally yes.

India's 'Wall', Rahul Dravid, has been the one stand out batsman for the tourists across these first two Tests, hardly surprising for a man that has occupied the crease for longer than any other batsman in the history of the game (approximately 40,000 minutes - equivalent to one month of solid batting). Whilst Dravid has looked to be the solid mortar steadfastly holding India's batting displays together, showing perfect technique in testing conditions, his team mates have looked to be the relative play-doh, attempting to hang on when stretched but eventually giving way to an English cocktail of swing, seam and venom. Even Test cricket's record run scorer, the 'Little Master' Sachin Tendulkar, has only managed to pass fifty once in four innings.

India, in fairness, have suffered through the loss of their strike bowler Zaheer Khan, a shoulder injury to explosive opener Sehwag and an elbow injury obtained at Lord's by his opening partner Gambhir, but nevertheless have so far failed their stern examination in English conditions. Their plight has not been helped by the fact that the general fitness levels of their players appear equivalent to those of an asthmatic sloth, and it will certainly be interesting to see if India do indeed have any response to the two crushing defeats they have suffered thus far in this series. It may well be that this team of invincibles have simply met their match against an England side hell bent on being the world's finest.

The next episode of this series takes place at one of England's happiest hunting grounds, Edgbaston. Win here, and the series is theirs, along with that highly coveted number one Test ranking. Conditions at Edgbaston are likely to be similar to those experienced during the second Test at Trent Bridge, with movement for the bowlers on days one and two, and the pitch becoming slightly more batsman friendly on day three. Don't expect much spin, it is likely to once more be a battle of the seamers. England clearly have the edge in this department, and on the evidence of the past two weeks, only a fool would bet against them.

Prediction: England win.

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