London: High on confidence, India will look for a series victory in the fourth and final cricket Test against England beginning on Thursday in a match that will mark the 100th Test for Sachin Tendulkar.
The massive come-from-behind innings victory in the previous Test has boosted India's hopes of a series win that has eluded it for 16 long years. England, which won the opening Test at Lord's suddenly finds itself under pressure. The controversy over ICC contracts is an unwelcome distraction for the Indians but it does not appear to have made a dent in their confidence after the all-round performance in the Trent Bridge Test.
The visitors are likely to field the same team that squared the series 1-1 with an innings and 46 runs victory. It has been a long wait for the Indians but there can be nothing better than breaking the jinx in the batting maestro's landmark Test. At 29, Tendulkar will become the youngest ever to play his 100th Test, joining fellow countrymen Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Dilip Vengsarkar in a distinguished list.
Tendulkar, who scored a magnificent 193 in India's biggest overseas victory in the third Test at Headingley, said it was one of his dreams to play 100 Test matches for India and hoped his joys would be doubled by a series victory here. "It's (winning a series abroad) so important because that's what we've been trying to do for so many years," Tendulkar said. "Now the time has come when we stand a chance to win a Test series but we don't want to put ourselves under pressure." In fact, India came close to winning an away Test series on more than one occasion, the most recent being in Zimbabwe and West Indies last year.
But it failed to put it across and the 2-0 win against England in 1986 by Kapil Dev's team still remains India's last Test series win outside the sub-continent. But the Indians seem better prepared and more determined than ever to finally make it happen here. They have been improving by leaps and bounds since their 170-run loss in the first Test at Lord's. They fought back valiantly to save the second Test at Trent Bridge and then came up with a brilliant team effort at Headingley to record their biggest ever overseas victory in a match that Tendulkar said was "an ideal" one for the Indians.
The Indians even held back their celebrations after the win at Headingley till the series victory was achieved. On the other hand, the fortunes of England has gone from bad to worse. The injury worries have continued to haunt them. Marcus Trescothick, even though he has not recovered completely from a thumb injury, is likely to return to the team for the first time in this series but all-rounder Andrew Flintoff will miss the match to undergo a hernia operation. The England selectors have also recalled Ronnie Irani who underwent a knee operation a couple of weeks ago to fill the all-rounder's slot.
With the Ashes tour to follow, England is desperate not to end up on the losing side in this series. Its batsmen have been doing the job more or less, but the bowlers have been erratic, especially in the Headingley Test. Except for Irani changing places with Flintoff, the England bowling line-up is likely to remain the same with Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Caddick and Alex Tudor forming the pace attack and Ashley Giles being the lone spinner.