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India beat Derbyshire in their second and final warm-up match before the five-match Test series against England begins. The win came down due to various reasons, but the Indians were hardly convincing. Big question marks have to be asked especially with regards to bowling. Shrikant Shankar writes India will head into first Test in Nottingham as second favourites.
England have suffered two consecutive Test series losses. The first was the 5-0 Ashes 2013-14 drubbing by Australia away and the second was the painful 1-0 loss against Sri Lanka at home. But they will still head into the five-match Test series against India as favourites. The reason being, that India are nowhere near to a proper Test side at the moment. The transition from 2011 is complete, but the new players are… well new!
While Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli provide fans with optimism, there are a lot of chinks in their armour. The Indians played two tour matches prior to the first Test against England in Nottingham. The first against Leicestershire ended in a tame draw. The second was against Derbyshire and the Indians managed to win that one by five wickets, despite being convincing. This result was possible only after Derbyshire made a sporty declaration setting Indians a gettable 142-run target.
It also has to be noted that both Leicestershire and Derbyshire are ninth and eighth respectively in the nine-team Division Two of the English County Championship 2014 season. The combined strength of the Indian bowlers only managed to take 13 wickets in three innings across two matches. This does not bode well as these performances came against the two teams which have the poorest of forms this season. Out of a total 18 matches played by Leicestershire and Derbyshire this season, only the latter has won a match that too once so far.
Most of the batsmen got in amongst the runs, but it goes without saying that ‘bowlers win Test matches’. Some of the England batsmen are in good form and they would relish the opportunity to bat against the Indian bowlers. At the moment, the focus is on Alastair Cook and the poor form of the England team. But it could all change quickly. MS Dhoni has not won a Test match away from home for what seems an age. While his captaincy in the shorter formats seems to be yielding the results, the same cannot be said in the longest version of the game.
India can still expect their batsmen to get some runs. Conditions in England help the seam/swing bowlers, but once the batsmen get their eye in, big scores can be expected as well. But it is these conditions that the Indian bowlers do not have seemed to utilise properly in the tour matches. With India’s final XI for the Test at Trent Bridge unclear to the observers of the game, a lot has to be fixed quickly. That is why the Indian selectors and management have much to ponder before the Test series begins.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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