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Final practice quest for England

The Ashes champions take on Indian Board President?s XI in their second and final warm-up match at Vadodara today.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2006 11:39 IST

This is the best opportunity for England to take stock of things as they begin their quest for supremacy in India.

The Ashes champions take on Indian Board President’s XI in their second and final warm-up match at the IPCL ground on Thursday.

And though England defeated the CCI XI in Mumbai, their opponents here, led by Y Venugopal Rao, would be much stronger and most likely, in a small way, give them an idea of what is in store.

And it is not only the Englishmen but also the Indians, who would be doing some reality check. Losing to Pakistan in the Test series has shown that opening combination is still a problem. And along with that India would be keen to see how VRV Singh, who is back from injury, performs.

With the Test squad to be announced here on Thursday afternoon, this match is of no immediate consequence to the Indian team as such, but it would give youngsters like Rao, Suresh Raina and S Sreesanth a chance to showcase their skills as far as the longer version of the game in concerned and impress the selectors.

Chairman of selectors Kiran More is also the coach of the team for this match. Sreesanth, most of all, would be striving hard because Ajit Agarkar was not exactly impressive in Pakistan and the Kerala bowler would be fancying his chance here. There are three openers in the President’s XI; Wasim Jaffer, Gautam Gambhir and Dheeraj Jadhav. It is most likely that Jaffer and Gambhir would get a chance to play. And skipper Rao would be hoping for a good show that would once again bring him back into the Indian squad.

Some of the England players are down with stomach bug. Simon Jones, Monty Panesar, Ian Blackwell and Shaun Udal are down with stomach problem while Paul Collingwood is yet to recover from his back injury.

The English team thus refused to name their final XI as they were uncertain as to who would be fit before the match starts. But when the visitors took to nets late in the afternoon, Panesar and Blackwell joined in and went through their regular fielding and net sessions. The two, it appears, are most likely to be fit for the match.

If you were to take away the heat, Englishmen would have been delighted with the conditions here. The pitch has much more than just a tinge of grass. English pacers Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard would be rubbing their hands in delight.

The curator Vasudev Patel said that the grass on the pitch would not be shaved off. “For the first couple of days it will remain a sporting one with good bounce and pace. There will also be some dew on it early in the morning. But after two days the track will break because of the heat.” More, when asked why such a track that suited the visitors was prepared, said, “We need to develop good fast bowling talent and play ing on such tracks will help us in that regard.” And President’s XI will most probably go in with three seamers: Sreesanth, Munaf Patel and VRV Singh. All the three had lengthy bowling sessions at the nets. Though, it wouldn’t be surprising, looking at the nature of the wicket, they might go in with fourth seamer Shib Shankar Paul. And have off-spinner Ramesh Powar turn the ball.

England would not be bothered about the result in this match, they would be happy if their bowlers get enough chance to bowl and batsmen are able to give some wood to the leather.

England and the President’s XI would most likely want to bowl first. England more so as it would mean they will bat on the second and third day when the going would be relatively easier.

But what would be worrying England would be the kind of pitches they would get in the Tests.

India would most likely not play England on grassy wickets, and English skipper Michael Vaughan would probably be thinking that they were better off playing warm-up games on turning tracks.

England

Michael Vaughan (capt), Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Geraint Jones (WK), Simon Jones, Kevin Pietersen, Liam Plunkett, Matt Prior, Andrew Strauss, Marcus Trescothick, Shaun Udal, Monty Panesar, Ian Blackwell.

Indian Board President's XI

Venugopal Rao (capt), Wasim Jaffer, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Subramaniam Badrinath, Dinesh Karthik (WK), Dheeraj Jadhav, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, Ramesh Powar, Shib Shankar Paul, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Vikram Singh. Umpires: V Jayaprakash and Amish Saheba.

First Published: Feb 23, 2006 11:39 IST