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Page last updated at 18:10 GMT, Wednesday, 10 December 2008
India v England 1st Test



First Test, Chennai: India v England
Dates: 11-15 December Start time: 0400 GMT each day
Coverage: Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio Four LW, BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and BBC Sport website. Video scorecard on BBC website & Red Button. Text commentary on BBC website & mobiles. Also live on Sky Sports.

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Swann hopes Chennai favours spinners

England have selected Graeme Swann and Matt Prior for the opening Test against India starting on Thursday in Chennai.

Test debutant Swann replaces the injured Stuart Broad and will form a twin spin attack with Monty Panesar.

Wicketkeeper Prior returns in place of Tim Ambrose for England's first Test match since the summer.

The two-Test series was in doubt after the Mumbai terror attacks but the re-arranged second Test has been confirmed to take place in Mohali on 19 December.

It was originally due for Mumbai before the incidents on 26 November but the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have received assurances from their security personnel regarding the safety of the new venue.

Plain-clothes officers will be in the ground to protect the players.

But Sean Morris, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, told BBC Sport: "The actual level of security that we will end up with will be very similar (to Chennai) because the ECB security advisors have got pretty strict criteria.

"We have been going through the list ticking off the minimum requirement in each area."

England were applauded for deciding to return to India but captain Kevin Pietersen insisted his side would not hide behind the turmoil of the attacks where 181 died.

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BBC Sport's Oliver Brett

"You could say we can't lose in this situation, but that's also a negative way of looking at things and finding excuses - I don't want any," he said.

"We need to make sure that our primary focus is to try and win this series. The lads just now want to play cricket."

Pietersen revealed watching Australian off-spinner Jason Krejza, who claimed 12 wickets on his Test debut in Nagpur last month, convinced England two spinners was the best way forward.

"It's a decision we have come to because we think the wicket could spin," he said. "We've had a look at it and it probably gives us our best and most attacking option."

Regarding Swann's selection, Pietersen told BBC Radio 5 Live: "It was a pretty straightforward decision. He's a lovely confident boy and hopefully he can take his confidence into the middle and put on a good solid performance."

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Swann, 29, told BBC Sport that establishing himself in the Test side was a huge incentive while playing in the one-dayers.

"I'm desperate to play Test cricket. There are more important things going on in the world than a game of cricket, but I just can't wait to actually get on there and hopefully have a good game."

The Notts man, who famously missed the bus on his first tour with England in South Africa under the Duncan Fletcher regime in 2000, admitted he thought his Test chances may have gone.

"I'd written it off after my first trip," he said. "I think you have to when you see everyone who has ever attempted to bowl spin in the world playing ahead of you.

"I had completely written it off, I didn't expect to play for England in any form of the game again.

"But I've worked very hard since moving to Nottinghamshire to get to this level and I'm happy that I'm here and delighted to be in the team."

The spirit in the England camp remains good, but before the one-day series was prematurely abandoned they had lost all five matches and were on course to have been whitewashed in the seven match-series.

Their preparations for the Test matches have been unusual, practising first in Abu Dhabi before heading to India, where they have been afforded unprecedented levels of security for a cricket match.

"We travelled on Monday, we'll practise on Tuesday and Wednesday and play on Thursday," the captain explained.

"What has happened has happened and we can't control it, but we're in a very privileged position to be playing Test match cricket in India and we've got to deal with it in a professional manner.

"For the rest of my career, probably, that's what's going to happen now for future tours to the sub-continent - we're just going to have to deal with it and play the cricket.

"It can be stifling to a certain degree, but our primary focus and goal now as international cricketers and sportsmen is to try and win a Test series.

"We've got to chuck everything away that's happened, create this little bubble that we've got here and go and perform."

Pietersen focusing on cricket

Aside from the security issues, the cricket is certain to be challenging, with only 11 previous Test wins on Indian soil since England's first match there in 1933.

Two years ago they famously won the third and final Test, Shaun Udal claiming 4-14, and levelled the series 1-1.

Should England defy the odds and win the series 2-0 they will move above Sri Lanka into fourth place in the ICC World Test Championship, within three ratings points of India in third.

India, however, perhaps have even more to play for, as a 1-0 or 2-0 victory would take them above South Africa into second place in the rankings.

And captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni believes the best way for his side to help India is to win this first international match since the attacks.

"It was good on England's part to come for the Test series, but it doesn't really bother us - we need to concentrate on the areas where we need to do well," said Dhoni.

"As an Indian I am grateful to them for coming, but we're not really concentrating too much on that because we have an important series to play and the best we can do for India right now is to win this game of cricket - that is what we are here to do as professional cricketers."

BBC News' Joe Wilson reports on preparations in Chennai

Pietersen also said he has been struggling to switch his mind to the match, for which the England team will donate half their fees to help those affected by the attacks.

"There are a lot of cricket issues to think through," he added. "My head has been given a full working over during the last few days.

"The last six weeks haven't been ideal but over the last three days there have been sleepless nights trying to figure out things.

"It's been emotional trying to work out what players are going to do and what team we were going to bring and now we've got a full squad it means we can choose from that.

"The cricket brain has switched on and decisions have to be made."

The two teams will hold a minute's silence before the start at the Chepauk Stadium to remember the victims in Mumbai. They will also wear black armbands during the match.


India (from): Mahendra Dhoni (captain & wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Subramaniam Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha.

England: Kevin Pietersen (captain), Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Matt Prior (wk), Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steve Harmison, Monty Panesar.

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see also
Jonathan Agnew column
10 Dec 08 |  England
The making of Monty
10 Dec 08 |  England
Newell backing Swann's selection
10 Dec 08 |  Nottinghamshire
England to tour with full squad
07 Dec 08 |  England
England set to resume India tour
03 Dec 08 |  England
England in India 2008
01 Dec 08 |  Cricket


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