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09 Dec 2008 12:39
England meet in-form India in the first Test starting on Thursday with one eye still on security following last month’s attacks in Mumbai.
The touring side arrived on Monday from Abu Dhabi and 3 000 police and soldiers will look after the players in the southern Indian city of Chennai after the Test was switched from Ahmedabad.
The one-day series between the teams was cut short following the attacks that killed more than 170 people in India’s financial capital, and after which England returned home.
“It’s been really important for world cricket that this tour does go ahead, the players recognise that,” England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) managing director Hugh Morris told the ECB website.
England have brought a full-strength side but their preparations have been far from ideal with the uncertainty over the trip and weather conditions during the stay in Abu Dhabi.
The tourists were outclassed in the one-day series by India, who won the first five games.
“It’s about getting your skills ready to go as a batter or a bowler. It’s such a quick turnaround now, so the lads have got to get themselves [together] really quickly if they are going to be ready,” coach Peter Moores told a news conference last week.
Left-arm swing bowler Ryan Sidebottom was ruled out of the series with a side injury and has been replaced by uncapped fast bowler Amjad Khan.
Fast bowler Stuart Broad is undergoing treatment for a hamstring problem but is expected to be fit for the second Test.
England, inspired by an all-round effort from Andrew Flintoff, staged a remarkable comeback for a series-levelling 212-run victory in the final Test two years ago.
But India are in top form following their 2-0 Test series victory over Australia and England will need to come up with something special to beat the hosts.
“If you win anything in India I think you are doing well, particularly with the way they played in the one-dayers and the way they played against Australia,” Flintoff told the ECB website.
The Indian team has a settled look despite the retirements of leg-spinner Anil Kumble and batsman Saurav Ganguly, but senior batsman Rahul Dravid’s form is a cause for concern.
Dravid, one of the keys to India’s batting for more than a decade, has scored just 268 runs in his last seven Tests.
In-form left-hander Yuvraj Singh is expected to fill Ganguly’s slot in the middle order after scoring back-to-back centuries in the first two one-dayers against England.—Reuters
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