England back Bresnan to ram home advantage

 

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The Independent Online

Four years ago, England's chances of beating India did not amount to a hill of beans. They return to the scene of the crime today for the second Test as a mature team at ease with themselves and pretty good at being noble.

There are plenty of reasons to think that the pulsating victory achieved at Lord's can be repeated, at which point the prospect of being the No 1-ranked team in the world would be closer to reality than ever before. All – still a big all – England would need to do then is avoid defeat in both of the final two matches to usurp the incumbents.

Both sides are likely to be below full strength. Chris Tremlett will almost certainly miss the match with a hamstring niggle that has not yet responded to treatment. With two matches to come, England would be reluctant – indeed they would be foolhardy – to risk a player in a match lasting five days as part of a four-man attack. Tim Bresnan (right) will come into the side.

India will definitely be without their premier paceman, Zaheer Khan, who also has a hamstring injury. So integral is he to their bowling strategy – and what swing he might have garnered at Trent Bridge, where he achieved the second-best match figures of his career – that his loss will be difficult to overcome. Sree Sreesanth is the likely replacement, although Munaf Patel may be a better bet in the conditions.

The other doubt for India concerns their opening batsman, Gautam Gambhir, who was still feeling the effects of the bruised elbow he suffered when he was hit at short leg during the Lord's Test. It would mean the tourists being without both their first-choice opening pair, Virender Sehwag being again absent because his recovery from shoulder surgery is continuing. Rahul Dravid would open the innings with the inexperienced Abhinav Mukund.

India are perfectly capable of coming back if they can assemble a large first-innings total. They are not No 1 in the world for nothing and three times in recent series they have won the second Test after losing the first.

When the teams arrived at Trent Bridge in 2007, England had come close to winning the first Test at Lord's, needing only one more wicket when rain intervened on the final afternoon. As is the case now, they must have felt they had India by the throat, but the match was marred by ill-will and England lost as the tourists ultimately took the series 1-0.

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