England in a spin?
Sky Bet make India 5/4 favourites to win the Test series against England which starts on Thursday.
By Nigel Askham
Last Updated: 09/11/12 2:49pm
Two teams knocked off the top of the World Test rankings over the past two summers will look to re-establish their credentials over the next month on the sub-continent.
England and India both have a point to prove after recent failures but Sky Bet's pre-series odds point to a difficult baptism for Alastair Cook as he takes charge for the first time following the resignation of Andrew Strauss.
The online bookmakers make India 8/15 favourites to win the four-match series which gets underway in Ahmedabad next Thursday (Nov 15th) with a drawn series at 13/10 and England a 7/2 shot.
"It's certainly a tough opener for Cook and as usual England's ability, or maybe lack of it, to cope with spin will hold the key to our chances," said Sky Bet cricket trader Damon Blezard.
"We have looked very shaky on turning tracks in recent years and there will be no hiding place for any player with a flaw in their technique in the blazing heat.
"England of course has the players to compete at this level as they have shown consistently in recent years but one or two cracks were visible, especially against South Africa in the summer. It's definitely going to be a big challenge for Cook and his men.
"If I were pushed I'd be having a little nibble at a 2-0 series win for India at 9/2 as I anticipate a couple of draws on lifeless, flat pitches."
All England eyes will be on Cook's captaincy and the possible impact on his run-getting plus the return of Kevin Pietersen after the shambolic 'textgate' episode.
A consistent Cook at the top of the order is more essential than ever following the loss of Strauss and the likelihood that Test rookies Nick Compton or Joe Root will partner him.
"Even allowing for the obvious pressure on his shoulders we still fancy Cook to rise to the challenge with the bat. He already has a ton under his belt on the tour and he is bracketed with Pietersen as a 100/30 chance to end the series as England's top run maker," explained Blezard.
"Pietersen too has his issues against spin but he seems to thrive when the pressure is really on and this is without doubt one of those occasions after what happened in the summer."
If you fancy a punt at a much bigger price and, given the frailties of the top order against spin, you could certainly make out a decent case for Samit Patel at 20/1. The Nottinghamshire ace looks like he will finally be given the chance to establish himself as a Test payer.
Patel offers another spin option too but his style seems more suited to the one-day game and you can get 16/1 for him to finish the series as England's top wicket taker.
Blezard concluded: "Graeme Swann will again spearhead the England attack although he has not been at his most potent of late. There are injury concerns over Steven Finn but provided he comes through those I think his style of bowling will be really suited to the conditions and looks a decent bet for our leading wicket taker at 11/2."
India to win series 2-0: 9/2
Top England batsman: Kevin Pietersen 100/30
Top India batsman: Virat Kohli 7/2
Top England bowler: Steven Finn 11/2