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England look to get into groove early

The tourists begin their campaign on the India tour with a three-day warm up game against a second string opposition.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2006 20:51 IST

England will look to make the best use of the playing conditions and a less than second string opposition to get into groove as they begin their campaign on the India tour with a three-day warm up game here tomorrow.

Michael Vaughan's men may have to wait to seriously test their preparedness for one of their most eagerly awaited tours as the Cricket Club of India team, which will take them over this weekend, comprises not many first-class cricketers.

With the Ranji zonal limited overs league championship in full swing, seasoned cricketers are away playing for their respective state sides.

The local outfit will be led by Mumbai skipper Nilesh Kulkarni and includes Karnataka's strokemaking opener Robin Uthappa, home town Ranji players Amol Muzumdar, Vinit Indulkar and Swapnil Hazare.

The track at the historic Brabourne stadium could hardly be termed as dust bowl that welcomes the visting teams in India. In fact, if the practice squares are any indication, the English could feel at home with good bounce on offer.

"It looked like Headingley in April," opening batsman Andrew Strauss said after the third day's team nets after arrival.

Coach Duncan Fletcher had to take the help of ground staff and rough up one of the pitches to simulate a rank turner for his players.

Surely, not what England would face in the Test series.

"I would be surprised" if the pitches for Test matches turn out to be seaming, Andrew Flintoff said.

The visitors would then be content to fine tune their technique and adjustments required to their batting and bowling in the Indian conditions.

The series proper will be a litmus test for the English. The euphoria of the Ashes success was followed by the wake up call in Pakistan where they lost the Test series 2-0.

The players realise that start is important for success in India.

"We all struggled a bit in Pakistan for a number of reasons. I think we were slow to adapt to the conditions," Strauss said.

"If you can build momentum it definitely helps you. If you are off to a good start, feel in good nick, get used to the wicket, you can go out and score runs in the Test."

Kevin Pietersen is one player who England could trust to play his natural attacking cricket, come what may the situation.

Not only did he do well with the bat in Pakistan, Pietersen also notched up four hundreds on England's A tour of India two years ago.

"It gives me a lot of confidence to know that I can score runs in the subcontinent," he said.

"I had a pretty okay tour of Pakistan. I scored four hundreds the last time I toured India. It is the confidence factor that you need to take into the subcontinent, I have that."

Besides, England will also learn a lot about their fitness under the stifling heat. Two of their key players were already down with a stomach upset and that maybe a minor concern from the team's think-tank.

Matthew Hoggard missed the practice session yesterday but returned to bowl at the nets this morning, while vice-captain Marcus Trescothick returned to the hotel room midway through the training today.

Liam Plunkett was also affected slightly by the stomuch virus and Shaun Udal had a soreness on the side.

England were expected to give all its players a chance to bat and bowl in the match.

The local challenge will also be a reality check for left arm spinner Monty Panesar, the first Sikh to play for England.

That the match may not be of first-class status should not deter the home players from putting their best forward.

"What better for me than to prove myself against (Steve) Harmison, (Matthew) Hoggard and (Simon) Jones," said Uthappa.

First Published: Feb 17, 2006 20:51 IST