India v England: Key battles

Posted in England in India 2012-13

With England’s four-Test series against India starting on Thursday, takes a look at the key battles that could determine the outcome of the rubber.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni v Alastair Cook

While Dhoni has led the India Test side for over four years, the tour of the sub-continent is Cook’s first assignment as England's permanent five-day skipper following the retirement of Andrew Strauss in late August.

However, the opening batsman is not short of experience and has enjoyed success captaining his country in 50-over cricket, helping England to the top of the International Cricket Council one-day rankings during his 18 months at the helm.

Cook also has the knowledge of leading an England side on Indian shores in the past, albeit in a 5-0 ODI defeat, and one of his main tasks will be how he manages to rotate his bowlers in soaring heat.

That is sure to be vital in his battle with opposite number Dhoni, who has been around a while and knows conditions in his homeland like the back of his hand.

Virender Sehwag v James Anderson

Sehwag, one of the finest opening batsmen of his generation, has suffered a dip in form over the last couple of years - his last Test century coming in 2010 against New Zealand at Ahmedabad, which is the venue for the first game from Thursday.

The 34-year-old has a reputation for getting India off to rapid starts but if Anderson - one of the best bowlers in the world - can get the new ball to swing, he will certainly test the patience and technique of Sehwag.

Setting the tone early is vital and the showings of Anderson and Sehwag will be key to their teams' hopes.

Yuvraj Singh & Samit Patel

Yuvraj Singh and Samit Patel are not certainties to play in the Tests, but their all-round games could make a huge difference in the series

Yuvraj Singh v Samit Patel

The duo are not certainties to play in the first Test, but their all-round games could make a huge difference in the series.

Yuvraj has returned to the international scene after recovering from lung cancer and has already troubled England, taking five wickets for India A in the opening tour match.

Nottinghamshire all-rounder Patel, also a left-arm spinner, has shown signs of excelling on the sub-continent so far, recording a century and two fifties as well as taking useful wickets.

Batting at six, Patel brings balance to the England side and another option with the ball, while Yuvraj’s explosive striking in the middle order represents danger.

Ravichandran Ashwin v Graeme Swann

Much has been made about England’s troubles against spin and Ashwin is charged with the task of unsettling the tourists.

The tweaker has had a great start to his Test career, claiming 49 wickets in eight outings, and will provide a daunting task for England’s batsmen when he combines with fellow slow bowler Pragyan Ojha.

England have their own threat in the form of Swann, who has been a revelation since his five-day debut in India four years ago.

The off-spinner has a habit of troubling left-handers, and Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj will be targets although the latter is known to play spin well.

If England are to take 20 wickets, they will need Swann to outshine Ashwin by holding up an end and snaring his fair share of scalps.

Sachin Tendulkar v Kevin Pietersen

The battle of the prized assets is sure to be an intriguing watch.

Pietersen, arguably England’s best player of spin, will be looking to dominate the India bowlers from the off as he attempts to return to international cricket with a bang.

The right-hander already has a century to his name on this tour and will be a good bet to be his side's top run-scorer come the end of the series.

Tendulkar, in the latter stages of his glittering career, averaged 34 in England last year and, having made a number of starts, only contributed one big score.

He will be looking to respond against the same opposition and silence the critics that suggest his retirement is imminent.

Both teams’ chances of registering match-winning scores will heavily depend on the performances of these two.

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