India set to Double Advantage

  • By: Dave Tickner
  • Last Updated: November 20 2012, 21:26 GMT

Matt Prior: Can perform again with the bat

4pts India to win second Test v England at evens (General).

1pt Matt Prior to be England's top batsman at 10/1 (Sky Bet).

It's fair to say things did not go well for England in the first Test against India in Ahmedabad.

They got the team wrong, the toss wrong, the bowling wrong and the batting wrong. They also dropped several catches.

At least there were a couple of reasons to be cheerful, with Graeme Swann bowling admirably for his first-innings five-fer and Alastair Cook and Matt Prior producing a stoic if ultimately futile second-innings rearguard after England followed-on trailing by a mere 330.

While that defiance didn't alter the result in Motera, it did at least give England a foothold in the series and some small crumb of comfort to take with them to Mumbai.

But the fact remains that five of the top six failed with the bat and only Swann offered any real threat with the ball.

There will be at least one change in Mumbai: Ian Bell is back in England following the birth of his son and will be replaced by Jonny Bairstow or Eoin Morgan.

It seems unthinkable, though, that England will stop there. Tim Bresnan has lost his nip since elbow surgery and looks a world away from the bowler who performed such heroics in 2010 and 2011. He may have played his last Test.

He will likely be replaced by Monty Panesar - whose stock rose immeasurably by not playing in the first Test - as England move to a two-seamer, two-spinner attack.

The big question, though, is will it make any difference? Certainly, the addition of Steve Finn on a ground that offers the seamer a little more than the Ahmedabad dirt would've been useful. His continued absence through injury is likely to have more impact than Panesar's inclusion.

Monty's record in India is poor, with an average close to 60, and England have never won a Test when he and Swann have played in tandem (a slightly misleading stat, admittedly, with most of those seven results owing more to batting than bowling frailties).

India, of course, have no such selection worries. They will surely go in with an unchanged side after a performance in which almost all made a significant contribution and those who didn't - Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar - hardly have their heads on the block.

There is little recent Test form to consider at the Wankhede; last year's astonishing draw with the scores level (only the second time it had happened in Tests) against West Indies was the first five-dayer at the ground since 2006.

But before that break it was a ground where results - and astonishing bowling figures - were commonplace. It was here in 2004 that much-feared spinner Michael Clarke took 6-9 for Australia. That match was the last of a run of Tests after the turn of the century in which three ended inside three days and the other in four.

While time has passed, it's still reasonable to expect a result here - India would surely have won that West Indies clash last year had the series not already been decided in their favour.

Given that, India's first-Test dominance and England's selection headaches with both bat and ball, the hosts look perfectly reasonable value at even money and worth an investment to double their lead in the four-match series.

Elsewhere, Matt Prior represents value in the top England bat market thanks to a combination of his own good form and his team-mates' struggles.

He comfortably out-batted all England players bar Cook in Ahmedabad and looks overpriced at a double-figure quote to repeat the trick from the first innings there and top the scoring.

In his last eight Test innings he's scored (most recent first) 91, 48, 73, 27, 7, 68, 40 and 60. Two of those last three have been top-scoring efforts, while he also top-scored twice in six innings during England's 3-0 defeat to Pakistan in the UAE at the start of the year when the top-order was similarly misfiring.

We'll take Sky Bet's 10/1, but those who wish to err on the cautious side may consider the 8/1 at Coral and Ladbrokes with each-way terms of 1/5 the odds for the first three. Six of those eight knocks mentioned above would have obliged.

  • Preview posted at 2115 GMT on 20/11/2012.