The Edgbaston pitch looks quite green here on the final practice day before the third Test, and for India that means more of the same from an England team who, I believe, will be pretty relentless in their approach to this series.
Yes, England are 2-0 up after the wins at Lord’s and Trent Bridge, but they have the added motivation now of knowing that they must not slip up here in Birmingham if they are to get to that No 1 Test ranking by the end of this series. There is still time for India to come back at England, but frankly it is not something I or most observers expect on the evidence of the first two Tests.
It is no surprise at all to see a greenish tinge on a well-grassed pitch here – indeed, there have been two strips prepared and one looks even greener than the surface which is being earmarked for the match.
Chris Tremlett’s continued injury niggles have already ruled him out, but I don’t think that bothers England in the slightest because it means that they can keep Tim Bresnan going in the role he performed so impressively at Trent Bridge. He is the ideal third seamer, behind Jimmy Anderson and a rejuvenated Stuart Broad, and his batting is also a very handy bonus in the lower middle order.
Without the injured Zaheer Khan, India’s bowling attack has struggled to impose itself on England’s batting – and could not finish the job when England were under the cosh at both Lord’s and Trent Bridge – and it is asking a lot of RP Singh, Zaheer’s replacement in the squad, to come straight in and bowl as well as he did on the 2007 tour.
Virender Sehwag, too, has had very little cricket recently and was dismissed very cheaply in the Indians’ two-day match at Northampton, and so overall it is difficult to see India rousing themselves. Having said that, they really need to stand up here at Edgbaston and show people why they are currently the No 1 ranked Test nation.
This was supposed to be a marquee series and although there has been some exciting cricket it is still disappointing that the matches so far have ended up as being very one-sided affairs – especially in Nottingham where England simply steamrollered India once Broad’s memorable hat-trick swung the balance back to Andrew Strauss’s team.
Ian Bell will bat at three, with Ravi Bopara slotting in at number six and Eoin Morgan moving up one place to No 5, and it is obviously a big opportunity for Bopara to cement his place in the senior Test squad even if this proves to be just a single chance as Jonathan Trott’s replacement. If Bopara fails here, he could find himself being overtaken by other young candidates.
A final thought: India’s poor performances so far have probably actually strengthened Duncan Fletcher’s hand as their new coach. They clearly have some serious problems to address, and it may be that Fletcher will now be more able to make the changes he will no doubt want to make because of that. He will more easily receive the backing of the Indian board and public if there is a bit of a crisis being perceived.
The shabbiness of the Indian fielding, in particular, will be driving him mad and it is obvious to all at the moment that he has a serious job on his hands over the next year or so with an ageing side – even if India somehow manage to come back to 2-1 or even 2-2 in this series.