England kick off their Test series against India at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground in Nagpur, a ground in which they have never played a Test, and last played an ODI in 1989. Nagpur has hosted eight Tests since its first in 1969 and India have won two, drawn four and lost two. In their last appearance at this venue in 2004-05, India were clobbered by Australia by 342 runs on a pitch that Adam Gilchrist said looked "like a good Australian wicket".
Can England's batsmen brave Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble? Will Monty Panesar impress against the best players of spin? Historically, Indian spinners have fared much better than their visiting counterparts at Nagpur. In five Tests since 1994, Indian spinners have taken 43 wickets at 36.79 apiece while other spinners have conceded an average of 55.13 for 23 wickets. India's fast bowlers account for just 20 wickets at an average of 46.65 while their counterparts have taken 33 scalps at 43.76. With all indicators pointing to a spinner-friendly surface, India might throw the conventional legspin of Piyush Chawla at England as well.
Anil Kumble needs six wickets to become the fifth bowler to take 500 Test wickets. While Nagpur is not Anil Kumble's favourite venue in India by no means has he performed poorly here. He has 18 wickets from four Tests at an average of 28.27, marginally better than his career equivalent of 28.75.
After the recent Test series in Pakistan where he aggregated just 63 runs in three innings, Nagpur is one of the best venues for Sachin Tendulkar to strike Test form. He has amassed 635 runs in seven innings at an average of 105.83 at this venue. His ground tally of three centuries (201 not out, 179, 175) is the second highest after the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai where he has made four hundreds. Rahul Dravid has also been prolific here, averaging 68.40 with a highest of 162 and two fifties in five innings.
Win toss, will bat. Each time a captain has won the toss at Nagpur, he's chosen to bat and only two out of those eight decisions have ended in defeat. Batting first is a definite advantage at Nagpur, where the average runs per wicket for the first innings of the match is 51.67 for five Tests since 1994. As the match progresses, the spinners come into play and that number drops to 22.13 for the fourth innings.
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