YORKSHIRE seam bowler Tim Bresnan is set to benefit from Steven Finn’s thigh injury and play for England in tomorrow’s opening Test against India in Ahmedabad.
Finn took no part in England’s net practice yesterday so Bresnan is expected to complete the pace attack alongside James Anderson and Stuart Broad at the Sarwar Patel Stadium.
England seem set to take a calculated gamble on Broad, who bowled six overs off his full run in two spells, and his sore heel but not on Finn, who suffered his setback two weeks ago.
If Finn has run out of time, wicketkeeper Matt Prior concedes the situation is not ideal but he is confident England have the resources to cover the tall fast bowler’s absence.
“It’s a setback. I’m sure coach and captain would want to be able to choose from every player that’s out here.
“But we have a lot of strength and depth in the squad. It’s one thing that’s made our squad so strong over the last couple of years.
“If Finny’s not available, there’s another guy that can step in and do as good a job – that’s the way we look at it.”
England are also hoping their new, ‘reintegrated’ Kevin Pietersen will not change too much.
Alastair Cook’s team will be banking on the superstar batsman to be back with all his swagger and dominance.
Pietersen, of course, has had to convince England management and senior players of his goodwill to regain favour in time for this demanding challenge after his summer of discontent over contract wrangles, text messages and other vexations.
What England cannot afford, however, is for a humbled Pietersen to return with his talents diluted.
That certainly did not seem the case, albeit against modest opposition, when the South Africa-born batsman warmed up for the first of four Tests with a power-packed century against Haryana last week.
Prior believes Pietersen is still the real deal. “We wouldn’t want KP to change too much, because it is how he is that makes him special as a player.
“If Kev suddenly came as this shy, introverted character I would be more worried.
“I want him to go out and express himself, as he does.”
Pietersen has an adoring public, as well as team-mates, to please here – thanks to his exploits in the Indian Premier League.
The partisan crowds will be aghast if he helps England to an improbable series victory against their home-grown heroes, but they would doubtless like to see some fireworks from him, too.
“You only have to walk around India and see these guys who have watched him play in the IPL... they can’t wait to watch him bat – and we can’t either,” added Prior.
“I’m glad he’s come back the same ‘KP’ as he was.”
Under coach Andy Flower, new captain Cook and predecessor Andrew Strauss, England have made team spirit perhaps their most valued virtue.
Prior reports that Pietersen is very much a part of that.
“The important thing is this group all pulling together in the right direction – and Kev, the character that he is, pulling with us makes us a far stronger team.
“That is happening right now.”
Prior, in his ‘engine-room’ position behind the stumps and at No 7, is the epitome of England’s one-for-all ethos.
“I genuinely believe it’s the team in big situations that win you games and get you out of holes – 11 blokes pulling in the same direction, rather than one or two or three individuals.
“Obviously individual performances, exceptional performances, always help – but it’s the group that is stronger than anything.”
Pietersen, he is confident, will not be rocking that boat this time.
“All I’m concerned about is that we start a Test match soon – so he best be ‘reintegrated’.
“He is in our team and in our squad. It is as good as it has been since I’ve been in this side.”
Many believe spin rather than pace will have the most significant bearing on the series, but Prior senses adaptability is still required in sub-continental conditions.
“A lot of time you look at a ‘wicket’ in India and think it’s going to deteriorate and turn into a dust bowl and a snake pit – and it’s flat the whole game.
“There are other pitches that look flat for three days, and then suddenly it turns and goes very low the last two. We’ll have to keep our minds open, our options open and adapt to whatever the circumstances.”
England beat India 4-0 15 months ago, to go to the top of the world rankings, but are well aware home advantage is a major factor.
“Certainly the shoe’s on the other foot... but we’ve done a lot of good work – obviously after the bad experience of last winter (whitewashed by Pakistan in the UAE), learning a lot from that and coming over here.
“We go into this Test match feeling fully prepared that we’ve covered every base.”
Victory in India, last achieved by an England team 27 years ago, would be an achievement to rank alongside the 2010-11 Ashes success – after a similar hiatus.
“Cricket is a religion out here, and to play in front of people who have that mentality towards your game is a fantastic opportunity for any cricketer,” said Prior.
“To then come out here and win in that environment would be even better.
“All these little challenges amount to something that, if we could pull it off, would be a fantastic honour to be part of.”