England v India, 3rd npower Test, Edgbaston August 9, 2011

Top spot is within England's sights

Match Facts

August 10-14, Edgbaston
Start time 11.00 (1000GMT)

The Big Picture

In 1981 the race riots were an undercurrent throughout a summer where England claimed a famous Ashes series victory. Thirty years later the unrest which began in London and has now spread elsewhere has overshadowed the build-up to a Test match where England can go No. 1 in the world with victory over India.

The England team were locked in their hotel on Monday evening, while India were keeping tabs on the situation, but the match is expected to go ahead as planned at a new-look Edgbaston which has undergone extensive redevelopment. The hosts are a win away from taking over from India at the top spot in Test cricket and they will take some stopping in their current form.

India have been a major disappointment during the opening two matches except for the herculean efforts of Rahul Dravid and occasional bursts from their pace bowlers. The batsmen have failed to reach 300 in four innings, while the support bowling for the quicks has been awful and the fielding often poor. For a side that came with such a mighty tag it has been quite a fall from grace.

MS Dhoni, himself in a poor run of form, and coach Duncan Fletcher have a major challenge. They will hope the return of Virender Sehwag can provide an x-factor but he's played hardly any cricket recently, falling for 8 against Northamptonshire over the weekend. Still, he has never been a player to value warm-up matches too highly.

Despite England's outstanding performances it is now that they could be at their most vulnerable. They have a recent track record of losing their way when a major target is there for the taking; at Headingley in 2009 and Perth in 2010 they stumbled with the Ashes up for grabs before recovering to claim the prize while last summer against Pakistan they lost at The Oval having been 2-0 up. This time they'll be desperate not to leave the series open.

Form guide

(Most recent first)

England WWDDW
India LLDDW

Watch out for...

India have sent out their SOS - Send our Sehwag. After three months on the sidelines with a shoulder injury Virender Sehwag has returned to action although it remains to be seen how effective he can be. His shoulder is still causing trouble and he's also suffered partial deafness. Yet he has the ability to open some old scars. His 83 off 68 balls in Chennai was the key innings in India's successful run chase during the 2008 series against England. Sehwag is the type of batsman who can score a hundred in a session and give a struggling team belief. Still, it's asking a huge amount of one cricketer.

Another batsman returning to Test cricket, although under different circumstances, is Ravi Bopara. However, with Jonathan Trott unlikely to be absent for long it is set to be a one-off chance for Bopara to show his game has matured to make him a viable option in the Test team. He'll slot in at No. 6, a more natural position than No. 3 where Australia found him out, but still needs to convince he has the technique and temperament for the top level. However, having narrowly missed out to Eoin Morgan earlier in the summer he knows he's still the next in line.

Team news

With Trott and Chris Tremlett ruled out England don't face any last-minute selection issues. Steven Finn is part of the squad but won't keep out Tim Bresnan after his outstanding display at Trent Bridge. Bopara is likely to bat at No. 6 on his Test return which means Morgan moving up one spot.

England (probable): 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Ian Bell, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Graeme Swann, 11 James Anderson.

India know they'll be without Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh for the rest of the tour, but will at least be able to welcome back Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir to strengthen the batting and allow everyone to play in their usual positions. Given Suresh Raina's problems against the short ball Virat Kohli, who replaced Yuvraj, may be considered while Amit Mishra is still favourite to come in for Harbhajan despite talk of a four-man pace attack.

India (probable): 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 VVS Laxman, 6 Suresh Raina, 7 MS Dhoni (c) (wk), 8 Amit Mishra, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Sreesanth.

Pitch and conditions

The surface was very green in the days leading up to the game and although some grass will be taken off there should still be plenty to encourage the seamers. However, Steve Rouse, the Edgbaston groundsman, said there won't be much pace. The ground has had problems with wickets this summer and one Championship pitch was ruled 'poor' and cost Warwickshire eight points. The forecast, meanwhile, is mixed with rain expected to be around at times.

Stats and trivia

  • England have won four out of five Tests against India at Edgbaston although the two teams haven't met on this ground since 1996, when Nasser Hussain and Sachin Tendulkar scored hundreds.

  • Kevin Pietersen averages 60.57 at this ground but the next best among the fit England batsmen is Andrew Strauss's 32.10.

  • For a full stats preview click here

Quotes

"Even in the two Tests we've played, there are moments when we've really had our backs to the wall. We're not expecting anything different from them, we're going to have to work very hard and hopefully earn the right to get on top in this Test match."
Andrew Strauss refuses to take India lightly.

"If he nicks it and doesn't walk it may be different, but apart from that he's quite good."
MS Dhoni doesn't think Virender Sehwag's partial deafness will be much of an issue.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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