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India v England: First Test match preview

We look ahead to the start of Alastair Cook's reign as England captain as he attempts to lead England to their first series victory in India since 1984-85.

Andy Flower and Alastair Cook: New era begins in Ahmedabad

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Two winters ago England completed the "Holy Grail" with a famous Ashes victory in Australia, now they are hoping to pull off an equally prestigious feat in cricket: winning in India.

The Alastair Cook-Andy Flower regime begins in earnest in Ahmedabad on Thursday and the Essex opener could hardly have asked for a tougher start to his reign.

Current England batting coach Graham Gooch, team-mate Kevin Pietersen, cricketer-turned boxer Andrew Flintoff, and Sky Sports pundit Nasser Hussain have all failed the 'ultimate test' in recent times, leaving another Sky Sports expert - David Gower - as the last England captain to claim a series win in India, back in 1984-85.

Indeed, only South Africa have won a Test match in India in the last eight years and England have only claimed a series victory on Indian soil three times since 1932.

All the best Alastair...

Michael Atherton described England's preparations for the Ahmedabad opener as "dislocated" after pace bowler Steven Finn was ruled out through injury and spin king Graeme Swann was forced to make two long-haul flights in the space of five days following illness to his daughter.

As a result of the disruptions, England are expected to play Tim Bresnan in place of Finn - a change fellow Yorkshireman Anthony McGrath believes will not hinder their chances.

He told Sky Sports: "Bres won 13 out of his first 14 Tests and is the kind of cricketer who doesn't get down if he's out of the team and when he comes back in he always does a job.

"He's done really well over the last 18 months/two years and been a consistent performer for England. He also bats well and has got some important contributions down the list."

Nottinghamshire all-rounder Samit Patel is likely to provide a second spin option alongside Swann after impressing with the bat in all three of England's warm-up fixtures, with Monty Panesar expected to miss out.

Revenge

Stuart Broad has overcome a heel injury in time to play and will share the new ball with James Anderson, who has a decent Test record in India, having won, lost and drawn his three Tests in the country, taking 10 wickets in the process.

Somerset batsman Nick Compton is expected to make his Test debut at the top of the order after registering back-to-back half-centuries in the last tour match against Haryana to beat off competition from Joe Root.

India, looking for revenge after their 4-0 mauling in England two summers ago, have selection issues of their own heading into the first of four Tests with openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir and national idol Sachin Tendulkar struggling for form and pace bowler Ishant Sharma a fitness doubt.

But Nasser believes it would be foolish to write off India's batsmen on their home patch.

He says: "Gambhir averaged over 90 against England in 2008 and like many Indian batsmen tends to be a better player at home, while Sehwag could go out and smash a hundred on the first day in Ahmedabad. Everything would then be forgiven and forgotten very quickly.

"Similarly, I'm not writing Sachin Tendulkar off just yet either even if he has failed to pass 30 in his last seven Test innings. His recent hundred for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy shows he's not going into this series undercooked and while he might not be the player he once was - the best there's ever been - he remains a serious threat."

The pitch, unsurprisingly, is expected to be dry and flat and a positive result at Ahmedabad has only yielded twice in the last seven Tests.

Sky Sports reporter Tim Abraham has labelled the toss a "must-win" for both sides, while Nasser believes a big first-innings score is imperative.

He added: "I honestly believe that England shouldn't find batting a problem in the first innings. It's what happens after that which counts. In India you can go through three very turgid days where the teams are about level and everybody's saying 'what boring cricket'; but when the ball starts spinning everything changes very, very quickly.

"At times it is going to be hard viewing - particularly with England's line-up. Alastair Cook, Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott are not going to blast it; they are going to try and bat long and grind out the opposition.

"But if England are behind on second innings they will have to be very careful because those men close in around the bat will be waiting to grab any half chance..."

Predicted teams for the first Test:

India: V Sehwag, G Gambhir, C Pujara, S Tendulkar, V Kohli, Y Singh, MS Dhoni (capt, wkt), R Ashwin, Z Khan, P Ojha, U Yadav.

England: A Cook (capt), N Compton, J Trott, K Pietersen, I Bell, S Patel, M Prior (wkt), T Bresnan, S Broad, G Swann, J Anderson.