With all due respect to South Africa, this series is the real clash of the titans to see who is the best current Test side. England have won five series on the bounce and India are yet to lose a Test rubber under the leadership of MS Dhoni – so something has to give.
England and India are notoriously slow starters, so staging the 1st Test of the series on a Lord’s featherbed may suit both teams as they begin to feel each other out. However, with India having had so little time to prepare on these shores, England may come to regret not staging this Test at Trent Bridge or Old Trafford.
Intriguing is the word that comes most to mind when assessing this match. Firstly, it is the 2000th Test match (prompting the ridiculous ICC XI picked by the public – Kapil Dev instead of Sobers? Sehwag or Gavaskar instead of Hobbs?). Then there is the small matter of Sachin Tendulkar aiming for his 100th international hundred. And if that wasn’t enough, there is the presence of Duncan Fletcher as Indian coach.
The time for all the talking is nearly over, let the extravaganza begin.
It’s Broad or Bresnan for England – we’d opt for the latter to reunite the four man attack who were so impressive during the innings victories at Melbourne and Sydney.
India’s final XI is less clear given Sehwag’s injury and the absence of Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan from the squad that recently beat the West Indies. With Suresh Raina excelling in the Caribbean and hitting a hundred in the warm-up match at Taunton, we expect him to bat at six, which means it is a straight choice between Yuvraj and Abhinav Mukund for the final batting spot.
Ishant Sharma was a revelation in the Caribbean and will open the bowling with Zaheer. Munaf Patel or Praveen Kumar will join the two spearheads and Harbhajan in India’s four man attack.
Look out for…
Kevin Pietersen likes the big occasion and it doesn’t get much bigger than this – the 2000th Test against the best side in the world at Lord’s. Don’t be surprised if KP marks the occasion with a sparkling hundred.
The battle between Zaheer and Andrew Strauss promises to be one to watch, but it’s difficult to look past Sachin Tendulkar’s quest to hit his 100th hundred and finally get on that Lord’s honours board.
Previously at Lord’s
2007 – Match drawn
A battling 76 not out from Dhoni and bad weather on the final day allowed India to escape by the skin of their teeth with just one wicket left for England to get in the first game of a series India went on to win 1-0.
2002 – England won by 170 runs
A captain’s knock of 155 by Nasser Hussain laid the platform before the bowlers earned England a big first innings lead. Centuries by Michael Vaughan and John Crawley helped set India an impossible target of 568, which they fell well short of, but not before the hitherto unsung Ajit Agarkar lit up Lord’s with this only Test hundred.
1990 – England won by 247 runs
Graham Gooch made history with 333 and 123 as India were trounced at Lord’s after England piled up 653 for four declared in their first innings. India didn’t go down without a fight though with Mohammad Azharuddin hitting a sparklingly beautiful hundred and Kapil Dev hitting four successive sixes to save the follow on.
The weather and the pitch will probably lead to a stalemate in this Test, but we go for England to win what promises to be a classic and close series 2-1.
Cricket Zeroes: Graham Gooch
If you like this, follow us on Twitter @thereversesweep