Long odds for injury-hit India

England's comprehensive victory at Lord's, with a performance hailed by their captain as "outstanding", has put them one step closer to the much-desired No. 1 spot in the ICC Test rankings. Some are already proclaiming them the best team in the world, irrespective of what the rankings say. Others suggest they aren't yet, and that judgment should be withheld until later in the series, given India's remarkable knack of bouncing back after defeats in series-openers.
An injury-hit India presents England with a great opportunity to settle the debate. MS Dhoni's side is crippled by the loss of arguably their most influential player, Zaheer Khan, due to a hamstring problem.
What will make it worse is if Gautam Gambhir, who is still recovering from a blow to the elbow he took in the first Test, joins the injury list. While India at least have a couple of back-up quick bowlers to choose from to replace Zaheer, Gambhir's absence could end up upsetting the batting configuration. One of three makeshift openers will have to be employed - Yuvraj Singh, Rahul Dravid or Wriddhiman Saha - and the experienced middle order, India's biggest strength, could be exposed early to the swinging ball.
England start as favourites in Trent Bridge, but as India have repeatedly shown, they are a surprisingly resilient side, regularly managing to circumvent problems caused by their relatively weak bowling line-up. Can they do it once again?

Form guide (most recent first)
England WDDWW

In the spotlight
Harbhajan Singh's place in the XI has rarely come under the scanner, especially after his ascension to the lead spinner's role after the retirement of Anil Kumble nearly three years ago. Now, though, questions are being asked after a run-of-the-mill performance in the Caribbean was followed up with a 1 for 218 at Lord's. While the track for the first Test didn't offer much for the spinners, Harbhajan's inability to keep the runs down hurt a Zaheer-less India. He needs three more caps to complete 100 Tests, a milestone he may not reach in this series unless he turns his form around.
At Trent Bridge four years ago, Matt Prior's career hit one of its lows when he faced a barrage of criticism for the infamous jelly bean saga. Now he returns to the venue acclaimed by some as the best Test wicketkeeper-batsman in the world. With four centuries in the past year and an average that has soared to the mid-forties, Prior has made quite a convincing case.

Team news
The most settled side in world cricket, England's only concern is the hamstring problem that is troubling their tall fast bowler Chris Tremlett. Andrew Strauss is confident Tremlett will be fit to play but even if he isn't, there's a ready replacement in Tim Bresnan. The rest of the XI are certain picks. England 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Andrew Strauss (capt), 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Eoin Morgan, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Graeme Swann, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Chris Tremlett/Tim Bresnan, 11 James Anderson
India have more to ponder. The good news for Indian fans is Sachin Tendulkar has recovered from the viral fever that troubled him in the first Test. The bad news is that Zaheer is out and Gambhir could join him on the sidelines. Sreesanth is likely to get his first Test since Cape Town six months ago, and Yuvraj Singh could get yet another shot at reviving his Test career.
India 1 Abhinav Mukund, 2 Gautam Gambhir/Yuvraj Singh, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 VVS Laxman, 6 Suresh Raina, 7 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Sreesanth

Pitch and conditions
This is a ground that is famous for its swing, and teams have struggled to score big in recent years. India's phalanx of experienced batsmen can expect a thorough workout against an on-song England pace attack. The clouds are expected to stay away this week, with warm and dry weather forecast.

Stats and trivia

  • Trent Bridge has been one of the most challenging Test venues for batsmen since 2005, with only Sabina Park having a lower runs-per-wicket ratio.
  • James Anderson has an outstanding record at Trent Bridge, bagging 28 wickets at 15.89 in four Tests
  • In this match, Tendulkar will become the first man to play 100 away Tests. The next person on the list is Rahul Dravid with 87 overseas Tests.

"We don't want to look at the negatives, we want to look at the positives, this will give a chance for someone to become a hero."
MS Dhoni makes light of the injuries to key India players
"If we can make it 2-0 here this week we are in a brilliant position to win the series. We aren't looking at Edgbaston or The Oval."