MUMBAI, Nov 22: Buoyed by their comprehensive nine-wicket win in the series opener, India will look to maintain their stranglehold over England when the second cricket Test begins on Friday in conditions which is 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 at the Wankhede Stadium. It will also keep Indian on track for a whitewash and avenge the 4-0 defeat they suffered during their tour of England last year.
India totally outplayed England in the opening game of the four-match series on a dusty bowl at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad except for a fightback by captain Alastair Cook and wicket-keeper 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.
The match would also be significant with Virender Sehwag set to become the only ninth 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 Ahmedabad track. Yadav’s injury has brought Ishant Sharma into the picture as a possible replacement.
Yadav had given the home side important breakthroughs — including 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 Ravichandran Ashwin, though he gave away over 100 runs while getting lower-order 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.
Cheteshwar Pujara would also look to continue from where he left in Ahmedabad where he hit an unbeaten 206 in a team score of 521-8 declared.
Senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar strangely has hit only one Test ton at his home ground — 148 as captain against Sri Lanka in 1997. He would be eager to score his second century here.
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.
Meanwhile, the visitors would be handicapped by the absence of 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. Left-handed batsman Eoin Morgan is talked about as Bell’s replacement in the eleven.
Tall paceman 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.There is also the likelihood of Samit Patel, who failed in the series opener, giving way to reserve wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow if Panesar is included to bowl left-arm spin.
INDIA: Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Umesh Yadav.
ENGLAND: Alastair Cook (captain), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Matt Prior, Samit Patel, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.—Agencies