Broad place under threat

  • Last Updated: November 27 2012, 22:15 GMT

Out-of-form vice-captain Stuart Broad may face a battle to retain his place as England eye their biggest challenge yet in India.

Finn and Broad: Battling for Test places

Pace bowler Broad was passed fit despite suffering a virus on the eve of the second Test , and then appeared well short of his best in a match dominated by spin and famously won by England to level the four-match series at 1-1.

Alastair Cook's tourists therefore have a realistic ambition again to become the first from England to win a series in India since 1984-85.

Their next stop is Kolkata on December 5, and with Steven Finn demonstrating his recovery from a thigh strain on Tuesday by taking four wickets for the England Performance Programme in Mumbai, Broad's inclusion is far from guaranteed.

Bowling coach David Saker has spelled out the magnitude of England's task, the "x-factor" Finn can bring to the team - and the Broad "issue" which must be confronted.

"To win (a series) over here is as big as any challenge," said Saker, whose two-and-a-half years so far with England have included an ICC World Twenty20 trophy and a historic Ashes win in his native Australia.

He insists, however, that India is the final frontier.

"Even the great Australia teams came over here, and found it so difficult.

"For any Test team, I think this is the biggest challenge to win over here.

"We've set our sights to do it, and hope we can."

After Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann accounted for 19 of the 20 India wickets with spin at the Wankhede Stadium, and James Anderson bowled impressively too with scant reward, Broad may struggle to beat Finn to the second seamer's position at Eden Gardens.

He has taken 40 Test wickets this calendar year, but none for 157 in two matches here.

Saker candidly acknowledged that Broad has a point to prove, and Finn could yet make a compelling case to replace him next week.

He said of the former: "There's a little bit of an issue, there's no doubt about it.

"He hasn't bowled as we would have liked, and he'd be the first to admit that.

"He's not the first bowler to come over here and find it hard.

"The great fast bowlers have had success over here.

"Stuart's probably not a great yet. He has to learn ways to become great. It's a learning time for him."

Saker will do all he can, as befits his job description, to help.

"During my tenure as bowling coach, I haven't had too many players down in confidence and form.

"This is when I have to come to the party. I hope I can do some stuff over the next few days that can help.

"It's my job to make sure we can get him up."

Finn would surely have played as part of a three-man pace attack in the first Test in Ahmedabad, if he had not injured himself in England's opening warm-up match against India A last month.

After his bowling stint Finn Tweeted: "Good to be back on the park today. 16 overs is gonna hurt in the morning though" and Saker is wary of assumptions about the tall seamer's fitness until he has safely negotiated the EPP's three-day match.

"We've got our fingers crossed he gets through, number one.

"If he gets through unscathed and bowls well, his name will definitely be talked about for selection.

"He's got that x-factor, a bit of pace, that height that always means you could get variable bounce over here - so his name will be bandied around for sure for that second seamer's spot."

Whoever gets the nod, England will approach the third Test with renewed confidence after Kevin Pietersen and Cook's hundreds set the scene for Panesar and Swann in a series-levelling victory.

Nagging doubts were creeping in beforehand, but no more.

"The challenge that I saw was to try to get 20 wickets, and for the first time in my tenure as a bowling coach I was scratching my head as to how we were really going to do that," added Saker.

"Straight after the game, I suppose we didn't really know (quite) how big a win it was.

"But when you talk a lot to ex-players ... it sort of sinks in how special it was.

"Day one, when we turned up and saw it was a used wicket, we knew how big the battle was going to be ... everything was in the favour of the Indians.

"To lose the toss then made it even harder. So when you put all that into context, it's a pretty special win."

It is one, too, which revived the happiest of memories for Saker, of England's second-Test victory on the way to that 3-1 Ashes success two winters ago.

"The Adelaide Test match, I remember the feeling after that was quite special," he said.

"Again, after this Test match, it's a huge challenge to win in grounds that are fairly foreign to our team; to do it the way we did is a great feeling, and the boys deserve all the accolades they're getting.

"I said to the guys afterwards I never thought I'd see the day that England could out-bat and out-bowl an Indian team in Indian conditions - but we did that."

The depth of anxiety among England's management was significant after the nine-wicket defeat in Ahmedabad.

It was England's fifth in Asian conditions this year, and Saker said: "I think everyone in the group was feeling pressure, there's no doubt about that.

"I can only talk from where I was coming from, but I was questioning myself as to whether we were doing the right things.

"If I'm doing that, I think probably others in the camp were wondering if we were going in the right direction."

Series-levelling success in Mumbai has changed all that.

"I wasn't sure what we'd get out of the group ... but it turned out to be as good a win as I've ever experienced with them.

"It wasn't relief; it was a feeling of all the work we've done with this group against spin, and playing in the sub-continent, had come off - and we were really pleased with that."


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