The batsmen need to quite simply set big totals and make big scores. England were torn apart last winter against Pakistan because they simply could not handle the spin and lost early wickets which exposed the middle order meaning England were bowled out for cheap scores frequently and even lost a Test match chasing only around the 150 run mark.
Alastair Cook has already hit a century in England’s first warm up game in India. He and Nick Compton need to set big averages for England’s batting line up. Compton will be under pressure as he is making his Test debut but if the pair can get England off to good starts then the likes of Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior and others can come in and build on an already solid platform.
The re-inclusion of Pietersen into the side means that the middle order is much stronger and less likely to be bowled out for next to nothing. England have three major players in Trott, Pietersen and Bell who can all re-stabilise the batting line up if Cook and Compton are out early. Matt Prior has six Test match hundreds and his job will be to come in and play quickly before the tail puts together as many runs possible.
The positive for England’s batsmen is that they now have a greater experience of what it’s like to play in India and how to play in India. Support wise they will be massive outgunned in all four Test matches. The pitches between Ahmadabad, Mumbai, Kolkata and Nagpur shouldn’t be too drastically different from each other. The pitches will be slow so batsman error is going to cause more wickets than normal. England are filled with good players of spin, it’s now a chance for them to prove it in conditions that suit that style of bowling.
England have already been dealt a big blow with the news that Steven Finn injured himself in the first warm up game. He should be fit for the first Test match but it now means he will miss out on further match practice. This is where the bowlers have suffered in the past, match practice is everything to Test players, especially in away conditions.
England are blessed with fast bowlers so expect to see a combination of Finn, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions to make up the pace attack. England are likely to go with experience which means the talented Onions could miss out but he was one of the most effective bowlers in the last County Championship. These are problems that England should be happy to have.
The quick bowlers need to be consistent in terms of line and length and patient. Indian pitches don’t cause the ball to nip off the seam as in England and the atmosphere means it could be difficult to get the ball to swing. England’s fast bowlers need to hunt as a pack because the hot and humid conditions in India will place great strain on faster bowlers who have to do more running.
Graeme Swann is under massive pressure but he is more prepared to bowl in India than ever before. He is England’s key spinner and he will have to bowl long and exhausting spells as he looks to add to his tally of 192 Test match wickets so far. It’s important that he, and the second spinner if played, use subtle variations in terms of speed, flight and angles to try and get the most from the conditions. Swann could very well be the player India target to attack.
To conclude, England have a very good chance of playing well in India and winning the four Test series. However, to do this they must learn from the lessons of the past and not make the same mistakes.
image: © chrisjrn