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Injury-depleted England look to salvage pride against India

Written by: Staff

Mumbai, Mar 17 (UNI) While England grapples to put together a playing XI which can salvage their pride and retain their second spot in the ICC rankings after Steve Harmison was ruled with a shin injury, India are faced with an embarrassment of riches ahead of the third and final Test in Mumbai tomorrow.

England are now missing the services of five main players with the onus lying on stand-in captain Andrew Flintoff to pull his side together and compete against India.

The injury-depleted tourists who crashed to a nine-wicket loss in the second test in Mohali on Monday after forcing a gritty draw in the first game in Nagpur, need a win in the last Test here to atleast square the series.

The England team with all their injury problems have competed well in this series so far, but their batsmen need to go on and get a big score if they want to have a realistic chance of beating the Indians in their own den for the first time in 21 years.

Paul Collingwood got a hundred in Nagpur and they were able to pull off a draw but at Mohali two of their batsmen got into the 60s and then got out which put their side on the back foot.

Batsmen like Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell need to stay at the wicket and not get out when set. The key to their success would be how their top order handles pressure and not give in and getting good starts.

In Mohali leg-spinner Anil Kumble triggered a batting collapse to claim nine wickets and set up the victory along with debutant paceman Munaf Patel, who grabbed seven.

England also have another reason of ensuring that they square the series, as India, if they protect or build on their lead, England will lose second place in the ICC Test rankings and slip to third behind Australia and India.

With Harmison out of the equation England is contemplating playing two spinners and might just also strengthen their batting which has let them down so far.

However, the only option they have is bringing in Owais Shah, who has not played a single match on this tour so far.

The key to England's success will depend largely on how their faltering top-order handles pressure.

The skipper's main task will be to inspire his inexperienced batsmen to avoid a repeat of the second innings collapse in Mohali, where England lost five wickets after tea on day four to lose the Test.

Veteran off-spinner Shaun Udal could be handed a fourth Test cap, replacing paceman Liam Plunkett, and pair up with left-arm spinner Monty Panesar.

England might also be tempted to play swing bowler James Anderson as the Mumbai wicket traditionally has some bounce and the wind from the sea also makes the ball move a bit more which could suit Anderson's style of bowling.

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