Tomorrow sees the 2,000th test match and shall take place at the home of cricket between arguably the best two test teams of the moment (though South Africa may have something to say about that as they are currently ranked second) and will be the start of a fascinating series. If England win the series by at least two clear tests then they will leapfrog India to lead the rankings. This would be a remarkable achievement for England but in my mind the natural pessimist in me can't see it happening.
The main selection talking point from an English point of view is Stuart Broad or Tim Bresnan. Broad is an interesting case, I am a very big fan, however his average and strike rate have been going the wrong way for some time. I believe of all of the Englishmen to take 100 wickets only Devon Malcolm did so with a worse average. However, he is also capable of the odd magical spell that can destroy a side - just ask the Aussies. Bresnan on the other hand bowled really well in the winter and it would be harsh if he lost his place just due to being injured at the wrong time.
I however think this is the wrong debate, the batting line-up of Strauss - Cook - Trott - Pietersen - Bell is pretty strong, three of them have been on great runs of form. Prior has also matured into a good middle order batsman. I still look at India and see their main strength as their batting (even though their bowlers have improved), England want to win the series and I think that to try and do this they should attack, the most attacking move would be to pick five bowlers. Anderson, Tremlett and Swann are certain picks given their form and then I would be choosing between Broad, Bresnan and Finn for the last remaining places.
Finn's main disadvantage is that most of his experience has been against Bangladesh and a frail Pakistan batting line-up. However, he was the leading wicket taker until he was dropped in the Ashes, and with 5 bowlers his poor economy rate could be managed. So I would choose him, whilst adding Broad just because of his potential with the bat. This would be hard on Bresnan and unfortunate for Morgan but I don't see four bowlers being enough for us to take 20 wickets against Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Gambhir - with Sehwag to return for the last two tests and I think this should give sufficient variety.
England wont however do this, they will select Morgan (again I am a big fan - I would be tempted to throw him into my line-up ahead of KP) and then I think they will go for Bresnan but we shall see.
One almost sure thing I think is that this series will see the 100th century by Sachin Tendulkar for India. This would be a fabulous achievement by one of the games true greats. From a personal point of view I really want it to happen on the fourth day at Edgebaston (preferably in a losing cause) as that's the only day I'll be attending of the series.
Here comes the bit I always get wrong, my prediction. It'll be a tight series and I can't see England not winning a test, also given the current weather it will ruin at least one leading to a draw. As such the pessimist in me is going for a 2-1 Indian victory - they aren't the number 1 ranked nation for no reason and will probably still all be full of confidence following their World Cup win earlier this year. If England achieve their objective and are the number 1 side in the world in a few months time then that would be a better achievement than winning the Ashes.#
Edited on Thursday 21 July:
Given the conditions I too would have played 6 specialist batsmen for the first test, however I would have chosen Bresnan over Broad.