Two of Yorkshire’s young lions are poised to make their tour debuts for England today.
Jonny Bairstow has shrugged off a thigh injury to take the place of the rested Matt Prior at wicketkeeper for the tour match game with Mumbai A.
And Joe Root is set to open alongside Nick Compton, despite the Somerset batsman being bowled for a third-ball duck earlier in the week against India A.
England captain Alastair Cook is to be rested with vice-captain Stuart Broad taking over. Cook scored a century against India A, a match Broad sat out.
The first Test of the four-match series against India begins in Ahmedabad on November 15.
Both Cook and Prior are expected to return for the final warm-up match against Haryana.
Bairstow had been struggling with a thigh injury and, while his fitness will come as a boost to England, doubts remain over fast bowler Steven Finn, who suffered a thigh strain against India A.
Scans showed no serious injury but England are worried he may not recover in time for the first Test.
However, former England paceman Steve Harmison believes Finn will not be part of England’s first-choice XI for the Test series, even if he is fit.
“The three best seamers that England have had have been Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad and James Anderson,” said Harmison.
“When Bresnan wasn’t in the team, Finn bowled extremely well, but we also saw just how much Bresnan was missed.”
Harmison also believes Compton should be given an extended run in the side.
“Give the kid a chance,” added the Durham bowler, who took 226 wickets in 63 Tests between 2002 and 2009.
“If Nick Compton is going to be given the chance to open the batting with Alastair Cook, he’s got to be given these four Test matches in India and the rest of the winter.”
Harmison also believes that all-rounder Samit Patel’s century in the warm-up match does not end fellow spinner Monty Panesar’s chances of playing in the first Test in Ahmedabad.
Patel, who made a hundred batting at No 6, also provides a bowling option with his left-arm spin.
The pair are battling to partner first-choice spinner Graeme Swann, and Harmison continued: “It all depends on the wicket in Ahmedabad.
“If it looks like it will spin, then they will go with their two best spinners, meaning Monty will come in. We’ll see how Monty goes in the next warm-up game, because I’m sure he’ll play.”
Broad will captain England for the first time since his elevation as Cook’s Test deputy – and is assured of inheriting a harmonious atmosphere.
“We’re trying to give everyone as much game time as we can,” said Cook.
“With Belly (Ian Bell) going home as well for the birth of his first child (during the second Test), we’ve got to make sure that the batter who’s going to come in gets some practice as well.
“That is the idea of these next two games, to make sure we get as many people as possible some practice.”
Among those who will benefit, England hope, is Kevin Pietersen.
The mercurial batsman made a frenetic 23 in his first innings back, after his summer of discontent and breakdown of relations with management and some senior players.
Swann was depicted in many quarters as one of those with whom Pietersen needed to make his peace before belatedly signing a new central contract and then being added to the squad for this tour.
The off-spinner said: “Kevin’s reintegration has been a seamless process, and it needed to happen.
“Everyone was wondering how it would go and whether it would be as easy as it has been.
“But a lot of credit has to be given to Kevin for the way he has come in.
“It’s just business as usual, and the dressing room is a very happy place this week.
“That’s what we need to be; if we are going to have a chance of beating India over here we need to be a very united dressing room.”
After the face-to-face meetings prescribed by the England and Wales Cricket Board for Pietersen, with Swann and others last month, there was no residual awkwardness when the time came to take the field together again.
“It was fine,” said Swann.
“Because of the meetings beforehand, where a lot was got out into the open and put on the table, it was seamless – just like walking in and carrying on as if he’d never been away – which was very helpful.”
That does not mean Pietersen will be a special case, spared the occasional digs which fly around all sports teams.
“In the changing room, no-one is safe from the humour that flies around – and he’s the butt of as many jokes Cooky,” added Swann. “He takes it fine. It’s been great.”
Meanwhile, Sourav Ganguly believes England have a major advantage on many teams touring India, and therefore should prove a match for their hosts.
The former India captain acknowledges a trial by spin will test England’s mettle, with R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha expected to form a formidable partnership on responsive pitches.
But unlike many who have travelled in hope, and returned disappointed, England have firepower of their own for the four-Test series.
Frontline spinners Swann and Panesar – the latter’s selection dependent on the balance of England’s team – are talented enough to convince Ganguly that Cook’s tourists will be competitive.
“They will face a challenge,” he said.
“When teams like India go to England for Test series, they face challenges. This will be the same.”
Lancashire have signed paceman Kabir Ali on a two-year contract as they prepare for life in the LV= County Championship second division.
The 31-year-old, who made one Test appearance for England in 2003, joins from Hampshire and will add experience to the Old Trafford attack having taken more than 700 first-class wickets during his career.
“Lancashire is a fantastic club with a proud history and great traditions,” Kabir said.
“I am excited at the prospect of working under Peter Moores and his coaching team as well as playing alongside Glen Chapple who is still one of the best in the country.
“Lancashire has an exciting and emerging squad and I am looking forward to playing my part in the challenges ahead.”
Lancashire cricket director Mike Watkinson added: “We are pleased to bring in Kabir whose experience and proven track record in all forms of the game will be of great benefit to our bowling unit.”