England must beat India by at least two clear matches in the forthcoming series to be ranked as the world's top Test team. Anything less will be insufficient to remove their opponents from the No 1 spot they have occupied since last year.
It is England's declared mission to top the charts for the first time since the ICC's official ratings system began and if they miss out now they may have to wait a while for another opportunity, relying on India to lose to others.
England are third on 117 points, behind India on 125 and South Africa on 118. A win for England by 1-0 or 2-1 in the four-match series, starting at Lord's next week, would overtake South Africa but only draw level with India.
But a home victory by 2-0 or 3-1, with points at stake because England lost to India at home four years ago, would see Andrew Strauss's side go three points clear.
A sense of anticipation is settling on England with such a prize at stake.
It is evident among the players that they feel the top of the bill act have arrived. India had their first practice yesterday at Taunton, where they will play Somerset in a three-day match starting tomorrow.
Jonathan Trott, one of England's enviably in-form batsmen, said: "It's a great opportunity, starting at the home of cricket, and going all around the country. It will be a great advert for the game on the back of a good series against Sri Lanka and hopefully it has caught the imagination of the country."
Ticket sales for the opening match suggest that Trott's wishes may be granted. India, Test No 1 and World Cup winners, are proving a huge draw and it is expected that Taunton too will be packed if Sachin Tendulkar and the rest of the vaunted batting line-up play, as seems probable.
Vaunted or not, Tendulkar or not, England's batsmen lose nothing by comparison at present. Trott has barely stopped for statistical breath since he made his debut against Australia in 2009 and now averages 62.23 after 21 matches with six hundreds.
"I was thinking the other day, we've won all the Tests I've scored hundreds in except the one against Australia in Brisbane where we managed to save the game," he said. "That is pleasing and contributing to winning Tests is what it is all about as an individual."
Of sustaining his remarkable run, Trott said: "I'd like to think so. There is no reason why not. There is no reason why you can't continue."
Trott has scored hundreds in two of his three Tests at Lord's, beginning with 226 against Bangladesh last summer and then adding 184 in a partnership of 332 with Stuart Broad against Pakistan three months later.
"They were two different hundreds. The one against Bangladesh gave me confidence about my position and playing for England in Tests, but it's great to walk in there, see your name on the honours board." If England lose to India, they will remain third in the rankings, such is the gap between the top three and the rest.Reuse content