India in England 2011 July 14, 2011

Scene set for first battle of the Indian summer

India's opening tour match against Somerset will give a first glimpse of what could become one of the most intriguing battles of the summer: Andrew Strauss versus Zaheer Khan
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England and India begin their Test series next week at Lord's, but there will be an early taste of what's on offer when the tourists play their three-day match against Somerset. And that's not just because it will be a chance to see MS Dhoni's team, but because it is set to be round one of Andrew Strauss versus Zaheer Khan.

It's not a contest that will decide the series - England are good enough to win without Strauss's runs and India have other bowlers besides Zaheer - but it's an intriguing head-to-head. Strauss has issues with left-arm quicks and Zaheer is the best in the business. For both players Taunton is important; Strauss ideally needs a decent score before the Test series and Zaheer needs miles in his legs having not played since the IPL.

The two sides are, of course, seeing the opportunity very differently. Strauss is playing down the significance of the outing, suggesting he would need it even if he had scored plenty of runs against Sri Lanka rather than the 27 he managed in four innings, but there was a hint from Duncan Fletcher that India see it as a chance to make an early mark.

"If he gets out early there's a chance we'll have something over him, but I believe our bowlers are pretty confident at the moment even if he does get runs," Fletcher said. "You are allowed to get runs at some stage. From our point of view we have to be careful that there are other batsmen in that side we need to look at. The problem really lies with Straussy, if he feels he has a problem it's more a concern for him than us."

MS Dhoni, meanwhile, had a wry grin when asked about his leading bowler against the England captain. "One thing for sure I won't be thinking much about Zaheer versus Strauss," he said. "Strauss will be batting and Zaheer bowling. It's good practice for both of them and we'll try to get the most we can out of this game because Zaheer hasn't been bowling for a while. Records don't play a big role."

Strauss, who spent part of the afternoon facing a bowling machine on the outfield, insists that what happens over the next three days won't have a major bearing on the series. Since the end of the Sri Lanka Tests he has played one innings for Middlesex where he made 2 against Gloucestershire and has since been restricted to net sessions.

"It's not a gamble," he said. "I've played no cricket for three weeks so it was crucial for me to be able to play some cricket this week. I don't think I've ever taken part in a Test match having not played cricket for three weeks beforehand.

"Thankfully this opportunity came up otherwise I would be probably be playing a second team game for Middlesex somewhere. What I do this week is not going to have a dramatic effect on the Test series but it will be nice to get some runs to feel confident, see a lot of their bowling and move to Lord's in a good frame of mind."

Strauss's form - and his performance against Zaheer - is just one of many potential themes that will emerge over the next five weeks, which is what makes for such an enticing prospect. It was confirmed on Thursday that if England win the series by two clear Tests they will overtake India and secure the No. 1 spot for the first time.

It has been the stated ambition of the Strauss-Flower regime to propel England to the top but now that it's within touching distance the captain doesn't want minds to wander away from the smaller goal of each Test match.

"It's possible to jump up rankings and fall back over a couple of games," Strauss said. "I think what we're looking at is to become No.1, but a little more sustained than that. It would be great if we can achieve this goal this summer. But I wouldn't say the hard work would be done then. It's one thing being No.1 in the world but quite another to be acknowledged all round as No.1 in the world."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 5wombats on July 16, 2011, 18:53 GMT

    @khiladisher "DO U REALLY THINK THAT ENGLAND HAS THE BOWLERS TO (take) THE WICKETS OF SEHWAG,GAMBHIR,DRAVID,SACHIN,LAXMAN,YUVRAJ,RAINA AND DHONI-DO NOT THINK SO ". Well, maybe England do not... but at 138/8 it appears that Somerset DO. lol.

  • anver777 on July 15, 2011, 12:11 GMT

    Ind team will surely have tough times against hi riding Eng......... a battle for the NO.1 spot in tests....so its gonna be an interesting series !!!!

  • gundapps on July 15, 2011, 11:42 GMT

    If conditions for batting are good and our senior batters bat to expected potential we can at best draw the Tests in England as I can't see the Indian bowling attack take 20 wickets in a Test against what is arguably the best Test batting line-up in world cricket on current form that England has.

  • Kangroos.Proteas.Monkeys.Lions on July 15, 2011, 11:39 GMT

    Inida has the services of veterans and experienced players who must be under pressure to quit on a high as they have been responsible for bringing India this far. On the other hand England have more youth in their lineup and carrying their form through this series will ensure them the number one position which is us up for grab as India hold it pretty loosely. Englhand were full strength against Sri Lanka while India just finished their endeavours in the carribean without the veterans. This series will be won by the team who will not be timid as Strauss has proved by playing the warmup and facing Zaheer upfront.

  • the_blue_android on July 15, 2011, 11:34 GMT

    @Morgan Stanley, that's exactly what you guys said back in 2007. Do you still remember the score-line?

  • AlfAlpha on July 15, 2011, 11:27 GMT

    Hope living-legend Sachin does not have trouble pushing his zimmer-frame up the Lords slope.

  • bumsonseats on July 15, 2011, 11:17 GMT

    as far as 4 flat pitches. lords will be a high scoring draw.as lords always wants the 5 days of paying customers. notts and birmingham should be results wickets and surrey depending on weather should be 5 good days with maybe a result late on 5th day. other than lords most counties seem to listen to what team england want, just as team india get wickets that suits them in india. im not saying what the final result of the series will be, as the indian supporters already are forecasting. what i would say i think england will score enough runs as they did against pakistan last year, who i think have a better attack then india. so it comes to indian batters against england pace attack. if the wickets are hard with good carry, then i can see england bowling them out for about the 300 mark. all in all it should be a cracker of a series. dpk

  • dummy4fb on July 15, 2011, 11:01 GMT

    @ to all english fans ......compare palyers: 1. Gautam Gambhir - Cook (Both r class batsman.. no doubt having same batting style) 2. Strauss vs Sehwag/Mukund (Can compare Mukund and Strauss[becoz of his form] no compare bw sehwag and strauss...Sehwag iz king in all conditions) 3. Dravid and Trott ....Again no comparison in experience bt both having class, temparament and patience. 4. For dis slot no one can compare India in all world Teams. 5.VVS laxman - Ian Bell...Bell may be in gud form but Wat about VVS go n ask to aussies who he iz. 6. Suresh Rains- Morgan...Similar Class... gud strike rate...no matter playing any format. 7. MS Dhoni - Matt Prior.....No Comparison both hv different style of play and Dhoni hs much more under his name dan Prior. 8. Harbhajan Singh - Swan....bhajji iz new allrounder of Indian Team. dis iz all batting comparison bw 2 teams and india iz much far better then English Team.

  • dummy4fb on July 15, 2011, 10:38 GMT

    I will say this much for India, they produce great curries, and unlike Pakistan they do not cheat at cricket.

    Should be a good series, England to win narrowly.

  • dummy4fb on July 15, 2011, 10:07 GMT

    England will win 2-1 , man of the series : Alistair Cook

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