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Nic Ladds 8th Dec 2008 - 19:46

Pietersen leads brave England into their toughest Test yet

Kevin Pietersen at 11/4 for top first innings batsman will lead his England team in India as 9/1 underdogs to win a Test series that nobody thought was going to happen.

After the horrific recent events in India the England players have had a really tough time deciding whether to go back to play the Test series. After a show of unity and strength the full squad has decided to travel over in a move that has delighted people all over India that England have not given in to the perceived threat.

This could go either way for England, they will either play the game of their lives inspired by their team spirit and determination to do themselves proud or they are understandably going to not quite have their heads in the game, are under-prepared and will just want to get the series over as quickly as possible.

India are 8/11 to pick up where they left off in the one day series and hand England a beating in the first test with the draw 11/4 and England 7/1 which would surely not be that big if it weren't for these exceptional circumstances.

India are expected to not have a problem dealing with the returning England and are 6/4 to win the series 1-0 and 7/4 to win 2-0 compared to the Three Lions who are 9/1 to win 1-0 and a huge 25/1 to recapture some form and win it 2-0.

The England team has a very similar look to the one-day side and in such tender circumstances the likes of Andrew Flintoff, Alistair Cook and Andrew Strauss will be looked to for a big innings with the bat. The trio can be backed at 7/1, 4/1 and 4/1 respectively for top England first innings batsman.

Flintoff at 7/1 looks the pick for top England first innings batsman at the prices. He started showing signs he was returning to form with the bat in the one-day matches and the man who England have turned to so many times for inspiration and guidance can set an example with a big scoring innings.

India's team will be looking to continue their domination over England and maintain their excellent form. Having been 5-0 up in the one day series they had previously beaten Australia in a Test series so will be brimming with confidence.

The explosive Yuvraj Singh will not be able to play with quite the same gusto that he did in the one-dayers but is a constant menace with bat and ball and is 6/1 to be top Indian first innings batsman.

The Indian batting line-up is the best in the world with so much talent that it is hard to single out one to out score the others. The great Sachin Tendulkar is available at 4/1 with the in-form Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag 3/1 and 10/3 respectively and all are capable of frustrating the England bowling attack.

Yuvraj looks the value at the prices if he can translate his one-day form to the Test format then England do not stand a chance.

With Stuart Broard injured for the first test and Ryan Sidebottom out, uncapped pace bowler Amjad Khan has been drafted in and he will be hoping to get his chance to dismantle the Indian batting attack and stake his claim for a regular first team place.

England will be going into this match with hope rather than confidence of getting anything out of it. The fact that they have decided to play has bolstered their reputation and if they can go to India and win it will go down as an historic victory truly against the odds.

Recommendations:
Top first innings Indian batsman - Yuvraj Singh 6/1
Top first innings England batsman - Andrew Flintoff 7/1

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