Depleted England face mighty India
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Depleted England face mighty India

Hosts go into tomorrow's Test with near full-strength, while England will rely on Freddie to get over loss of key players.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2006 20:13 IST

India will seek to deliver an early punch as they go into the first cricket Test against England on Wednesday with the visitors finding themselves in total disarray with injuries to some of of their top players.

The hosts are on a roll following their convincing 4-1 rout of Pakistan in the one-day series less than ten days ago and their confidence would be sky high especially in home conditions and with a near full-strength squad to choose from.

But in the backdrop of Sourav Ganguly's omission from the squad, the youngsters have to deliver to justify their selection at the expense of their former captain.

England, on the other hand, would be relying on stand-in captain Andrew Flintoff to help them overcome the loss of key players, including skipper Michael Vaughan, and lead them to their first Test win on Indian soil in more than two decades.

The tourists were dealt crippling blows with Vaughan, fast bowler Simon Jones and vice-captain Marcus Trescothick returning home due to various reasons.

Vaughan failed to recover from a sore right knee that has been troubling him for the past few months, while Jones suffered cartilage tear in the left knee after falling on follow through during practice yesterday.

Both have not been ruled out of the entire tour but any quick recovery to be fit for second Test by either time looked highly doubtful.

Trescothick pulled out of the tour midway through a tour match last week citing personal reasons.

India, on the other hand, are buoyant after coming back strongly from the Test series loss to put it across Pakistan in the limited overs series.

The confidence factor of having bested Pakistan would rub off on most Indian players, including a few newcomers like leg spinner Piyush Chawla and paceman VRV Singh.

The loss of Yuvraj Singh to a hamstring injury is certainly a blow but the hosts have the wherewithal to make up for the Punjab lefter hander's absence.

The toss up to fill Yuvraj's slot would be between Mohammed Kaif and his UP teammate Suresh Raina.

The former has experience on his side and the latter's good display in Pakistan could tilt the balance in his favour.

India would be reverting to specialist openers with a fit-again Virender Sehwag partnering Wasim Jaffer to launch the innings.

The Indian batting would be up against an England pace attack that looks potentially good even in the absence of Jones -- with the gangling Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard -- and Flintoff to man it along with one from the remaining duo of Liam Plunkett and James Anderson.

It is in slow bowling department that the absence of the injured Ashley Giles would be felt as neither Ian Blackwell nor Monty Panesar have the experience or the skills to trouble the home team batsmen even on a pitch that looks pretty dry and spin-friendly.

First Published: Feb 28, 2006 15:14 IST