England prepare to face India at Lord's

In their plight to become the world's best cricket team England have to beat the nation that already holds the accolade.

     Rahul Dravid is one of many Indian batsmen who could trouble England at Lord's [GALLO/GETTY] 

    Some of the world's finest cricketers will be on show when England and India launch a four-Test series at Lord's on Thursday, but the spotlight may fall on the umpires rather than the players.

    Umpires will receive no help from technology commonly used in other international cricket matches, mainly because India rejects key parts that can help umpires to give leg before wicket decisions.

    The umpires, New Zealander Billy Bowden and Pakistan's Asaf Rauf, will be feeling the pressure even more after Australian umpire Daryl Harper quit cricket early, accusing Indian cricketers of adopting "bullying" tactics on the field during the recent series against West Indies.

    England will be confident after a convincing series victory over Sri Lanka, and the home team could once again be helped by cool, overcast conditions that assist seamers like James Anderson and Chris Tremlett.

    "I feel this is a place of cricket, I feel this is a place that understands cricket. I even come here when I am not playing"

    Indian batsman Rahul Dravid on Lord's cricket ground

    Pugnacious fast bowler Stuart Broad is likely to get the nod from coach Andy Flower over Tim Bresnan.

    Flower denied Broad was being used as an "enforcer" to unsettle batsmen.

    "His job is to create pressure and to take wickets and to do that you generally bowl at off stump," Flower told the Guardian newspaper.

    India, the world No. 1 Test team and one-day world champions, have the most feared batting lineup, but will be without explosive opener Virender Sehwag for at the least the first two Tests because of a shoulder injury.

    "We've heard that he'll be over here maybe the third and fourth Test, so we're crossing our fingers for that," said India coach Duncan Fletcher, a former England coach.

    Fletcher is keenly aware that his batting lineup, which includes Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, is comfortable with English weather conditions and should not be overly troubled.

    Home from home

    Rahul Dravid in particular is looking forward to playing at Lord's cricket ground which stages the 2000th Test match on Thursday.

    Dravid, 38, scored 95 on his Test debut at Lord's in 1996, an innings which confirmed to him that he had the ability to compete at the highest level.

    He has since compiled 12,314 runs at an average of 52.40 and held a world record 203 catches.

    "This place always brings back some very special memories," said Dravid.

    "I always feel in some strange way at home. 

      Graeme Swann will hope his spinning knocks the Indians from the summit of world cricket [GALLO/GETTY] 

    "I feel this is a place of cricket, I feel this is a place that understands cricket. I even come here when I am not

    Dravid paid tribute to Fletcher, who will become the first man to take charge of a Test team for the 100th time on Thursday.

    "We are still getting used to his sense of humour. He does have one," Dravid said.

    "He's been a good calm presence in the dressing room. His technical knowledge and the conversations we've had about batting, he's seen a lot of situations."

    England off-spinner Graeme Swann is wary of India's top order but said he thought the home side's top six could be better.

    "They have got a very good batting lineup but I'd argue whether they are the best in the world at the minute because I think our top six might be," said Swann.

    "Their records certainly stack against each other."

    Swann, the world's leading spinner, said England should not get carried away with the prospect of overtaking India as the world's top-ranked side.

    The home side will become the world number one team if they win the four-Test series by a margin of at least two matches.

    "It's going to be a huge game," he said.

    "It feels like summer has finally arrived - at least today the sun has come out for 20 minutes.

    "We are playing against the number one team in the world, we are striving to be the number one team in the world, so it is a very exciting time for us."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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