England excited by India test – all they need now is some oppostion



England were lacking only two things as they arrived for their limited-overs tour of India yesterday. They had no coach and no opposition. Both shortages may well be rectified in the next two days, though there is considerably more confusion surrounding the latter than the former.

Andy Flower did not travel with his team both because he was receiving his OBE at Windsor Castle yesterday and is also recovering from surgery on his right shoulder last weekend. He is expected in town tomorrow.

By then, England may also have some clue about their opponents for the two warm-up games they are scheduled to play before the series of five one-day internationals begins a week on Friday. The dates are still filled by the three letters present since the itinerary was announced months ago: tbc, to be confirmed.

"We're struggling a bit to find a team to play against," said England's assistant coach, Richard Halsall, who will be in overall charge until Flower arrives. It is perhaps typical of the Board of Control for Cricket in India that they have failed not only to select the team but to give a name to it.

While they are hardly about to run out of players, England must be slightly concerned about the strength of the eventual XI, whether it represents President, Board or some benefactor, as yet undisclosed. Many of India's star players are injured and will miss at least the first part of the one-day series, most of the others are playing in the Champions League Twenty20, still more are taking part in the Irani Trophy match 900 miles away in Jaipur, the curtain raiser to the country's first-class season.

The tourists, who stage their first training session today, now expect to play some sort of conglomerate Hyderabad team in both matches. Weaker opposition may at least help them in becoming familiar with conditions, although Hyderabad was filled with an autumnal gloom yesterday.

Flower was awarded an OBE in this year's Birthday Honours List following England's epic Ashes triumph in Australia last winter and received it in a formal investiture ceremony yesterday. Killing two birds with one medal, he also seized the opportunity to have surgery on a SLAP lesion in his right shoulder, the same injury which has forced Eoin Morgan to miss this trip.

In Flower's case it has been caused by wear and tear, most specifically the day after day routine of providing throwdowns in net practice. His shoulder knows something of the rigours to which the baseball pitcher's is subjected.

England's preparations must include, as far as they are able, some acknowledgement of the new ODI playing conditions which will apply in the series. Two new balls will be used in alternate overs from the start of each innings, thus precluding the current change of ball after 34 overs.

There has also been a change to the powerplays. While there will still be mandatory fielding restrictions for the first 10 overs in each innings the regulations for the other two five-over blocks have been amended. Neither can be taken before the 16th over, affecting the bowling powerplay, and both must be completed by the 40th over.

Ian Bell, who again finds himself fighting for a place in the one-day side, said: "It will be interesting to see. The ball will certainly stay harder for longer, which is good in these kinds of conditions. I'm sure we'll be working on tactics for how it's going to pan out. I'm sure it would be different in England, and if it swings more that's good for us as well. But in these conditions it's going to be good for batting and with the powerplays as well. It's quite exciting."

Bell is more excited than most to be here. He moved house four days ago and has left his wife to unpack. By the time he returns it should be complete. There is more than one upside to the touring life.


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