After losing their No.1 Test status it was obvious this would be a very tough tour for a transitional England side. But when your whole team is outscored by a single batsman playing in only his sixth Test match you know you have serious problems to address. In his unbeaten innings last week, India's Cheteshwar Pujara managed 15 more runs than the whole England line-up, as the tourists’ aversion to spin bowling was put under the spotlight once again.
Selection decisions on the bowling front have since been questioned, but the honest truth is that the top seven batsmen England possess should have been capable of posting a total akin to India’s 521 in near-perfect batting conditions. Embarrassing dismissals were littered among England’s two batting attempts and unless the touring batsmen can wise up to sub-continent cricket then a 4-0 series drubbing (5.50) is a distinct possibility.
Panesar suddenly a world-beater?
It is a truth as old as time in sport that whenever a player is left out of line-up that subsequently struggles, they are suddenly considered some sort of superstar. And so it has proved that Monty Panesar's absence has made many hearts grow fonder. However, the real truth is that Monty Panesar’s bowling possesses less variety than a tin of Quality Steets on Boxing Day morning, and that is why he has only played three Test matches in the last three years.
The selectors would have been very tempted to include the Sussex spinner in their line-up but an average of 55.9 in five Tests in India perhaps gives reasoning to his exclusion. It seems almost certain that the 30-year-old will get the nod in Mumbai but don’t expect to see him run through an Indian line-up that won’t fear a bowler with only a few balls in his armoury.
Changes aplenty have been discussed on the England front although the only enforced one will be replacing Ian Bell - who has returned home for the birth of his son - with Jonny Bairstow. It was hoped that Steven Finn might be brought in to freshen up the tourists’ attack but a thigh injury keeps him sidelined, while coach Andy Flower has all but admitted that Panesar will be included this time around.
As such, England will likely stick with their six batsmen/four bowler approach with Samit Patel retained, so reading between the lines it seems likely that Tim Bresnan will miss out after struggling in the first Test.
The team news for India should not create any headlines with the hosts certain to name an unchanged line-up after their straight-forward victory in Ahmedabad.
Despite a convincing first Test victory for his team, home skipper MS Dhoni was very critical of the Ahmedabad pitch and it’s lack of pace or bounce. But he may as well get used to it, as only a little more life is expected from the Mumbai strip. That being said, this becomes another must-win toss for England if they are to avoid being batted out of the game in the first innings – you can back either team to win this crucial toss at 1.95.
The draw is no bad bet at 2.55 but doubling your money on an India win (2.0) is too good a deal to pass up. After a fluent innings of 74 in the first Test I think Yuvraj Singh screams value to top score for India at 11.00, while Jonny Bairstow could be at an equally bloated price of 9.00, coming in at five for England.
Don’t forget our Nuts KP moneyback special for this series. If Kevin Pietersen is top first innings runscorer for England, then we’ll refund all losing bets.