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February 13, 2006
The former England fast bowler, Neil Foster, believes Michael Vaughan's men will have to rely on the tried-and-trusted seam quartet that carried them to Ashes glory, if India are to be beaten on home soil when the Test series gets underway at Nagpur in a fortnight's time.
Foster, 43, knows what is required for success on the subcontinent. At Madras on the 1984-85 tour, he took 11 wickets in inhospitable conditions as England came from behind to secure a remarkable 2-1 series win. Since that match, England have failed to win a Test in India in seven attempts.
"Make no bones about it," Foster told Cricinfo. "To win in India is probably a bigger achievement than beating the Australians. The only reason it doesn't feel as significant is that it is so many years since we last beat the Aussies and that has become the holy grail.
"I don't think England are going to win it with spin, so they'll have to use their pacemen," added Foster, as he casted doubt on the influence that England's chosen trio - Shaun Udal, Monty Panesar and Ian Blackwell - would have on the series. "Without a doubt, our spinners aren't at the level that theirs are at, and our batsman probably don't play spin quite as well as theirs do either, so that makes it an even bigger gap."
The return to the fold of Simon Jones, who missed the Pakistan tour after undergoing ankle surgery, was cited by Foster as a crucial factor for England. "We definitely missed Jones in Pakistan," he said. "I don't think we'll see fast-bowling wickets - if anything they'll be flat with a tendency to spin. So we need to reverse-swing it and if he's fully fit and bowling well then by adding him to the attack it'll be a good contest."
England lost 2-0 on that pre-Christmas tour of Pakistan, and Foster was adamant that one or two lessons needed to be taken on board. "I think they'll need to batten down the hatches a bit," he said. "I'm not saying they shouldn't be aggressive, but at times their aggression let them down [in Pakistan]. They need to bat for longer.
"The aggressive approach worked well against the Australians," he added, "in that the Aussies were never negative, particularly when they bowled, and constantly stuck with their attacking fields. Pakistan, on the other hand, were happy to set more defensive fields and bowl patiently with the odd attacking ball. Our eyes lit up every time an attacking ball was bowled and we paid a heavy price.
"India will place a heavy emphasis on spin, and England need to be patient. If they think they can just go in and play happy-go-lucky, slapdash cricket, then they'll come a cropper again. But I think it'll be a fantastic opportunity for them. India are a very strong side at home, and it's always a good test of where you stand in the pecking order."
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