England, already without their captain Michael Vaughan and vice captain Marcus Trescothick, the first out due to injury and the latter due to personal problems, suffered another setback when their main reverse swing exponent Simon Jones was also ruled out late yesterday following a broken cartilage in his left knee.
The new England captain, Andrew Flintoff will now have to play the role of an all-rounder with the added responsibility of captaincy, which might be detrimental to the England squad, as the added pressure might affect his own performance.
On the other hand, the Indians have their confidence sky high and with the pitch expected to assist spin, the Indians have reasons to smile.
With a lot of 'young blood' in the team, it looks as if most of the players will have to warm the benches as the think-tank would in all probability go in with two seamers and two spinners.
With Harbhajan and Anil Kumble to fill the spinners spot and Irfan Pathan and R P Singh to share the new ball, the young lads, S Sreesanth and V R V Singh, supposed to be the fastest Indian bowler, as well as 17-yr-old leg spinner Piyush Chawla would be warming the benches.
For India, the batting also takes care of itself with Wasim Jaffer finally getting a chance to open with Virender Sehwag, followed by Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V V S Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. There is only one spot open which would be a toss up between Mohammed Kaif and Suresh Raina, with the former more likely to play due to his experience.
Meanwhile, England have been sweating it out in the middle over the past two days and have been reinforced with the arrival of pace bowler James Anderson and batsmen Alaistair Cook and Owais Shah. The English attack would be seam based as they would play three seamers along with two spinners in Ian Blackwell and Monty Panesar, despite the nature of the wicket, which curator Kishore Pradhan termed as a ''true wicket'' offering good pace and bounce for two days. It will then help the spinners, while batsmen will also enjoy playing here.
The major problem for England would be their batting after Trescothick and Vaughan, both good players of spin returned home for different reasons. This leaves only Andrew Flintoff and to a certain extent Ian Bell as the batsmen who can stand up to the spinning ball.
However, the English side does have character and as was said by captain Flintoff yesterday, ''all the players who would be walking out onto the field tomorrow would keep the English character and resilience going and fight it out till the last ball is bowled.'' However, it remains to be seen who will open the batting, whether it will be Andrew Strauss or Cook be given his first Test cap.
The middle order remains settled with Bell at three followed by Kevin Pitersen, Andrew Flintoff and wicket keeper Geraint Jones.
Both the teams are expected to announce their playing XI tomorrow before the match. The outfield at the ground is lush green and this being the examination season and a Test match to boot, the stands are expected to be half-full only. However, the Test match fever has gripped the city to a certain extent and there have been hordes of fans coming along to the ground to witness the practice sessions, and if only this continues during the Test match, the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) will be happy.
The VCA has taken all security precautions and the spectators would not be allowed inside with water bottles and other objects which can be thrown on the ground. Policemen in plain clothes will be deployed in the stands to nip in the bud any trouble which could have a bearing on the staging of the match.
India: Rahul Dravid (capitan), Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Sachin Tendulkar, V V S Laxman, Mohammed Kaid, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wicket-keeper), Irfan Pathan, R P Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Sreesanth, VRV Singh and Piyush Chawla.
Coach: Greg Chappell
England: Andrew Flintoff (captain), Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Alaistair Cook, Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Geraint Jones (wicket-keeper), Kevin Pietersen, Owais Shah, Liam Plunkett, Matt Prior, Andrew Strauss, James Anderson, Shaun Udal, Monty Panesar and Ian Blackwell.
Coach: Duncan Fletcher.
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Ian Howell (South Africa), Third Umpire: A V Jayprakash (India).
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka).