Yorkshire all-rounder Tim Bresnan looks set to get the nod to lead England’s attack in the first Test against India in Ahmedabad, starting tomorrow.
This is because his main rival for the position, Steven Finn, is unlikely to be fit in time after taking no part in England net practice yesterday.
Bresnan is now likely to complete England’s pace attack, alongside Stuart Broad and James Anderson.
With hours to go to the start of the four-Test series at the Sarwar Patel Stadium, it appears England might have decided to take a calculated gamble on Broad’s sore heel but not on his fellow seamer Finn’s strained thigh.
England’s plan was thought to be for both Finn and Broad to bowl in the nets yesterday, having done so two days earlier while their team-mates were playing their final warm-up match against Haryana.
But only Broad practised as scheduled, bowling six overs off his full run in two spells.
England wicket-keeper Matt Prior later agreed that Finn’s chances of recovering sufficiently from the thigh strain he suffered two weeks ago might have receded.
“The one thing you would say is, if there was a realistic chance of Finny playing, then he probably would have had a long bowl in the nets,” said Prior.
It is unlikely that England will risk the match fitness of two fast bowlers in a three-man pace attack and have decided that Broad is their best bet.
If Finn has run out of time, Prior concedes the situation is not ideal, but he is confident England have the resources to cover the tall fast bowler’s absence.
He said: “It’s a setback. I’m sure coach and captain would want to be able to choose from every player out here.
“But we have a lot of strength and depth in the squad. It is one thing that has made our squad so strong over the last couple of years.
“If Finny’s not available, there’s another guy who can step in and do as good a job – that’s the way we look at it.”
Meanwhile, England are hoping that 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 tomorrow.
Pietersen 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 tomorrow with his talents diluted.
That certainly did not seem the case, albeit against modest opposition, when the South Africa-born batsman warmed up with a power-packed century against Haryana.
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,” said the wicket-keeper.
“If Kev suddenly came as this shy, introverted character I would be 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 in Ahmedabad – 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.
“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 his 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 is all pulling together in the right direction and Kev, the character that he is, pulling with us makes us a far stronger team,” he said.
England (from): Cook (capt), Compton, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Morgan, Prior, Bairstow, Patel, Swann, Panesar, Anderson, Bresnan, Broad, Finn, Onions, Meaker.
India (from): Dhoni (capt), Sehwag, Gambhir, Pujara, Tendulkar, Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Rahane, Ashwin, Ojha, Harbhajan Singh, Khan, Yadav, Sharma, Vijay.