India will be looking to shut England out of the series by taking an unbeatable 2-0 lead when the teams clash for the second Test in Mumbai on Friday.
Buoyed by the comprehensive nine-wicket win in the series opener, a confident India will look to maintain their stranglehold over England when the second cricket Test begins here on Friday in conditions which are expected to suit the home team spinners.
Already 1-0 up in what has been touted as the ‘revenge series’, another victory for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men will ensure that England’s quest for their first series win on Indian soil in 27 years will continue. It will also keep Indian on track for a whitewash and avenge the 4-0 defeat they suffered during their last tour to England.
India totally outplayed England in the opening game of the four-match series on a dusty bowl at Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad except for a fightback by captain Alastair Cook and wicketkeeper Matt Prior that kept them afloat till the final day after the home side took a huge 330-run first innings lead.
Barring Cook and Prior, who scored 176 and 91 in England second innings in Ahmedabad, the other visiting batsmen looked all at sea against the Indian bowling attack led by left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha who emerged with a nine-wicket haul.
The match at Wankhede Stadium on Friday would also be significant with Virender Sehwag set to become only the eighth Indian player to feature in 100 Tests.
The form of the dashing opener, who hit a run-a-ball 117 in India’s massive first innings, would be crucial again in the outcome of the second match and, in fact, in the whole series.
India, however, may miss the services of pacer Umesh Yadav who picked up a lower back injury while trying to get some extra pace and bounce on unresponsive Motera track during the first match. Yadav’s injury has brought Ishant Sharma into the picture as a possible replacement. Yadav had given the home side important breakthroughs –Inc luding the wickets of Ian Bell and Samit Patel off successive balls — in England’s second innings in the first Test and it will be a blow for the home side if they have to miss him here.
Zaheer Khan, who used the old ball craftily in tightening the screws on England on an unresponsive pitch at Ahmedabad, will spearhead the attack.
The gangling Sharma, who has recovered from his viral infection that laid him low in the first Test, would be his likely new ball support if Yadav is ruled out, leaving the latter’s cover Ashok Dinda in the reserves.
India are also likely to retain R Ashwin, though he gave away over 100 runs while getting tail-end batsman Graeme Swann in England second innings to add to his three-wicket haul in the first, and keep his off-spin rival Harbhajan Singh again in the reserves.
The Indian batting clicked in telling fashion with Sehwag rattling the England attack with a run-a-ball 117, his first in more than two years. Cheteshwar Pujara would also look to continue from where he left in Ahmedabad where he hit an unbeaten 206 in a team score of 521 for 8 declared.
Senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar, who was honoured last evening by the Cricket Board for his incredible achievement of scoring a 100 international hundreds, strangely has hit only one Test ton at his home ground — 148 as captain against Sri Lanka in 1997.
The 39-year-old cricketer, who is in the twilight of his glorious career, would be eager to score his second century here as this could well be his final chance to achieve the feat before he retires.
He had missed out on the chance to score his landmark 100th ton by six runs in front of his adoring home city fans during the thrilling last-ball draw against the West Indies last November.
The Wankhede track appeared to have an even coat of grass two days before the match but is expected to sport a different hue on the morning of the game.
Skipper Dhoni had given a clarion call for a turning track from day one after his spinners Ojha and Ashwin bowled 55 and 43 overs on the low and slow Motera track as England made over 400 runs in the second innings.
There is significant amount of dewfall in the morning here which should help the pace bowlers in the first session of match days with the track sweating under the covers.
The middle session is generally the best for batting at this venue, at least on the first two days, as later the sea breeze that sets in during the last session aids swing bowling.
Barring Sharma coming for the injured Yadav, it appears that the winning eleven in the first Test would be retained by the hosts.
Meanwhile, the visitors would be handicapped by the absence of Ian Bell, though he was a flop in Ahmedabad. The middle order mainstay has flown home to be at the side of his wife who is expecting their child.
26-year-old left-handed batsman Eoin Morgan is talked about as Bell’s replacement in the eleven.
Six foot-seven inch tall pacer Steven Finn, on whom the England team had pinned many hopes to get some extra bounce on slow Indian pitches, has aggravated his thigh injury which he picked up during their practice game before the series and is again unavailable.
It would be interesting to see whether left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, who was surprisingly omitted at Ahmedabad, plays at this venue where he celebrated his maiden Test wicket, that of Tendulkar, by running all the way to the boundary line six years ago.
If Panesar gets the nod, one of the three seam bowlers who all flopped at Ahmedabad — James Anderson, vice-captain Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan — would be out of the eleven.
There is also the likelihood of Samit Patel, who failed in the series opener, giving way to reserve wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow if Panesar is included to bowl left-arm spin.
This would be the 23rd Test hosted at this venue since the first in 1974-75 and India have come out victorious on 9 of those occasions – including thrice in a row against England between 1984 and 1993.
The hosts have suffered reverses against their English rivals in 1980 and 2006, the last time the two met at this ground, with the tourists aided by the all-round brilliance of Ian Bothan (century and 13 wickets) and Andrew Flintoff (two fifties and 4 wickets) respectively. The rival teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt. & wk), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Murali Vijay, Ashok Dinda.
England: Alastair Cook (capt.), James Anderson, Tim Bresnan, Nick Compton, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott, Stuart Broad, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Graham Onions, Eoin Morgan, Monty Panesar and Stuart Meaker.
Umpires: Aleem Dar and Tony Hill
Third umpire: S Ravi
Match Referee: Roshan Mahanama.
Hours of play: 9:30 to 11:30 am; 12:10 to 2:10 pm; 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm (minimum 90 overs).