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Stuart Dalgleish 14th Nov 2012 - 7:41

Can Alastair Cook up a sub-continent win?

Alastair Cook has been handed his first assignment as permanent Test captain of England (5/1) - become the first person to lead the Three Lions to a series victory in India (4/9, drawn series 10/3) since 1985.

To make things tougher for 'the Chef' (Cook 3/1 top England run scorer), he'll be striding out to the middle without his former right hand man Andrew Strauss, and it's between Nick Compton (6/1) and Joe Root (9/1) as to who will open.

Compton is the next in line from a long list of South African born players looking to represent England; and he's coming off the back of a sensational season for Somerset, he probably has the nod over the young Yorkshireman, who I imagine England see more as an ODI specialist.

It's not just the openers slot that is up for grabs, as England have dropped Ravi Bopara after a pretty disastrous summer, and there looks to be three men vying for that position of number six batsman.

Jonny Bairstow (7/1) returned to form in the Tests, hitting a 95 and a 54 against South Africa, but has not been outstanding otherwise and really struggled in what will be similar conditions in the World Twenty20.

Eoin Morgan (10/1) hasn't played in the Test team since the final match of the Pakistan series in February, but he really impressed in Sri Lanka and also had several starring roles in England's successful limited-overs series over the summer. The left handed batsman had built a reputation as a good player of spin, and that could help him in this series, it is just whether he has regained his confidence after a dreadful winter last year.

Samit Patel (16/1 batsman, 14/1 bowler) would be the other option, and as much as I don't particularly see him as a great Test player, he's more of an orthodox spin bowler unlike Kevin Pietersen and it would give the option for England to also pick Monty Panesar (9/1) in a five-man attack.

These wickets are going to be turners, India will not be afraid to go top-heavy with spin and England can match them in that department; Steven Finn (6/1) is already ruled out of the opener, Tim Bresnan (7/1) could be an option but I would play Graeme Swann (7/4), James Anderson (7/2), Stuart Broad (9/2), then the two spinners of Monty and Patel.

Graham Onions (12/1) and Stuart Meaker (16/1) are the other bowlers in the squad, but neither are particularly likely to play in the Tests.

When India travelled to England in 2011, they arrived as the number one Test team and had a team packed full of world class stars; they left with their tails well and truly between their legs, that is not very likely to happen this time.

In their own backyard India are a force to be reckoned with, and haven't lost a series there since 2004, and even that was to the all-conquering Australian team, Gilchrist, McGrath, Warne et al.

So many of their great successes have been built around building big totals and putting pressure on the batsmen with spin, and this is going to be key to this series too.

While the legends such as Virender Sehwag, (7/2 top Indian batsman) set to play his 100th Test during this series, and Sachin Tendulkar (9/2) have been the provider of so many of those runs, they will now have a new member of that batting line-up to torture bowlers - that man is Virat Kohli (7/2).

The batsman will be playing against England for the first time in his whites, but in the last few limited overs series he has really dominated England's attack - he averaged 90 in this part of the world in 2011/12, and the previous summer he was a scorer of 194 runs over five ODIs.

Kohli will almost certainly step into Tendulkar's number 4 spot in the immediate future as the Little Master has hinted at retirement (probably after he reaches 200 Test matches, he's on 190).

The Indians bat deep in their own conditions too, MS Dhoni (14/1) averages nearly 40 and has scored more than his fair share of runs against England over the years, normally coming in at 7.

A player of Suresh Raina's talents isn't even getting into the team at the minute so that tells you the quality of their card; it will not be easy for England to bowl India out cheaply.

The hosts will certainly be able to bowl England out though; their attack will be lead by the tweak of Ravichandran Ashwin (6/4 top India bowler), who has 49 wickets in just eight Tests, Pragyan Ojha (9/4) will frustrate with his flight and we all know about the pace of Zaheer Khan (9/2).

Harbhajan Singh (5/1) is back in the Test fold too having not played since India toured the UK in 2011, he has been familiarising himself with his opponents having played for Essex during this past season. He's a hot-headed character though and England will know how to get at him.

If England have learnt their lessons from previous tours, then this could be a cracking series, and our 5/1 on them to get the better of the four matches, and also the 9/2 on them winning the first Test could prove an outstanding bet.

Patience is key though and England will have to bide their time in compiling totals, I'm just not sure they have the temperament for the battle ahead.

A couple of bets I'll be having are Monty top overall bowler at 20/1 and Dhoni top overall batsman at 16/1, both are available each-way so have a great place chance.




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