Four-man England attack faces sternest test
London: Andrew Strauss delivers a spirited defence of his preference for a four-man attack in his latest book, asserting that research shows England win more matches with an extra batsman than they do with a fifth bowler.
Seven series wins and a creditable draw in South Africa since Strauss took over as captain have justified a strategy that will be tested to the full in the four-Test series against India starting at Lord`s on Thursday.
Even without explosive opener Virender Sehwag, who will miss the first two Tests with a shoulder injury, India possess a batting line-up crammed with class, experience and sheer weight of runs.
India field three great batsmen in Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman with an excellent support cast including Gautam Gambhir and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, their two heroes in the World Cup final triumph over Sri Lanka in April.
If England are to take the official world number one ranking from India, they need to win the series by at least a two-match margin. The responsibility for capturing the necessary 20 wickets in a match twice will fall to James Anderson, Chris Tremlett, Graeme Swann and, in all likelihood, Stuart Broad.
Anderson came of age last year, deploying seam movement and reversing the old ball in addition to his whippy late swing. Swann, one behind Anderson in third place on the world rankings, is the world`s best slow bowler, a naturally aggressive off-spinner who gives the ball a ferocious tweak but who can also play a containing role.
Tremlett`s pace and bounce have made him an automatic choice since he forced his way back into the side in Australia and the choice for the remaining bowling spot at Lord`s lies between Broad and Tim Bresnan.
Build Up Pressure
Broad, the national Twenty20 captain, was left out of the England side for the final one-day game against Sri Lanka and a county match for Nottinghamshire against Somerset proved, in effect, a test trial.
Watched closely by national selector Geoff Miller, Broad took five for 95 in Somerset`s first innings which was enough to retain a place in the test squad and all indications are that he will be in the final XI.
"There were signs he was getting back to where he was," said Miller. "We know what he is capable of doing and when he puts on that England shirt we feel sure he will show exactly that and produce the goods and make it difficult for India."
Broad`s pedigree is undoubted and he won the Ashes back for England at the Oval two years ago with a splendid spell including four for eight in 21 balls.
But his bowling average after 107 wickets from 37 Tests has crept over 36 and he took only eight wickets in three Tests against Sri Lanka.
Broad still looks likely to win selection ahead of the reliable Bresnan because of his height and ability to extract nasty bounce, as he showed when he ruffled the Indian batsmen during the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup.
He left the Australia tour early because of injury and his problem against Sri Lanka appeared to be finding a consistent attacking length.
Strauss, who scored an unbeaten century in the second innings against India playing as a guest for Somerset at the weekend, made a point of emphasising that Broad`s role was not just to bounce his opponents.
"Occasionally the situation dictates that you want to go short on a particular batsman and he is our best bowler at doing that, but that is not his role in the side," said Strauss. "It never has been.
"His role is not fundamentally any different from Anderson or Tremlett -- which is to build up pressure."
The Somerset match was India`s sole outing in English conditions before Lord`s and the Indians are also slow starters with each of their three defeats in the past three years coming in the opening Test.
Consequently Lord`s, if the present foul English weather allows, could be an ideal opportunity for the home side to take an early series lead but only if they show against the best batting line-up in the world the discipline and accuracy they displayed in Australia.