Let the game begin

London: It can’t get bigger than this; two of the top three Test sides bracing against each other at cricket’s most celebrated venue, the lord’s. And it just doesn’t stops here, the first Test between India and England begins today with all eyes on Sachin Tendulkar, who has the opportunity to mark the 2,000 test match with an unprecedented 100th international century. Incidentally it’s also the 100th Test between England and India.

But all the hype would settle down now as it’s time for both the teams to take the field and let their game do the talking. There’s not much to chose between the two sides when it comes to mutual strength, but England has a slight edge as they are playing at home and India is without Virendra Sehwag at the top of the order. India’s dismal show against Somerset also lowers their chances.

But the visitors have always been slow starters in away tours and they have the tendency to bounce back when the chips are down. Their most overseas wins in the last couple of years have come on bouncy wickets and when they had their backs to the wall. Skipper Dhoni has never lost a Test series as captain and he would want keep that record intact. Sachin, Laxman and Dravid must be knowing that it’s definitely their last England tour and therefore would want to make it a memorable one.

Suresh Raina has sealed the number 6 spot with his 103* in the practice game out placing Yuvraj singh who was out for a duck. Unless Dhoni prefers to open with a more experienced Yuvraj Singh rather than rookie Abhinav Mukund, the MVP of the 2011 World Cup will be left carrying drinks to the field.

Indian bowling looks potent with Zaheer Khan coming back, but it would be interesting to see that the Indian seamers could swing the Duke Ball or not and whether Sreesanth plays ahead of Praveen Kumar. The pitch may not turn to Harbhajan Singh’s liking but he may enjoy the bounce at Lord’s.

On the other hand, England, who thumped Australia emphatically in last year’s Ashes is going through a purple patch in test cricket with their eyes firmly on the number 1 test ranking spot, currently held by India. If they can beat the visitors by a margin of at least two tests, they can clinch the top spot. They have a formidable batting line up with the likes of Alaistair Cook and Jonathan Trott in the form of their life.

Captain Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pieterson who are not in very good form could be dangerous on any day. Ian Bell and Matt Prior too can score big runs. In the bowling department, they boast of a varied pace attack and have Graeme Swann, arguably world’s best spinner in their ranks. All this sets up for an intriguing battle of test cricket.

Weather forecast suggests that Lord’s may not have sunny conditions throughout the 5 days of play and might have a passing shower, but the rain would definitely not play a complete dampener as it looked a few days ago.

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