England hope to regain self-respect
Hosts are eager to restore pride in the third test but India appear to have the upper hand
Agence France-Presse in Southampton
England will not just be looking to end a sequence of 10 tests without a win when they face India in the third test at Southampton on Sunday, they will be aiming to restore their pride.
Last Monday's 95-run defeat in the second test at Lord's, a result that put the tourists 1-0 up in the five-match series, came after England had won the toss on a pitch that might have been made to captain Alastair Cook's specific instructions and against an India side who had not won away from home in 16 previous tests.
India excelled in disciplines that were once common to every county team, let alone England.
And then compounding the "role reversal" was the way the match ended, when England's batsmen succumbed to a bouncer-trap baited by Ishant Sharma who took seven for 74 as India won their sixth test in England.
It was typical of England's present plight that the only player who was dropped from the squad for the third test was left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan, who did not play at Lord's.
By then, experienced wicketkeeper Matt Prior had withdrawn, citing quad, Achilles and right hand injuries, to be replaced by 23-year-old Jos Buttler, uncapped at test level, but already England's limited overs gloveman.
Given England's extensive backroom staff, how was it that Prior, who dropped six catches of varying difficulty this season, had been selected to be behind the stumps for four straight tests - with only one Championship match as a keeper behind him this season - when he was so clearly unfit?
Cook and Ian Bell, the two senior batsmen are both in the middle of a run drought.
Left-handed opener Cook has gone 27 innings without adding to his England record of 25 test hundreds, while it is 19 innings since Bell last reached three figures at this level.
Cook is determined to carry on.
"I haven't had any tougher times in my career than at the moment," he said. "It gets harder and harder the longer it goes on. But I don't think walking away from it would be the way to go."
For India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the unexpected but welcome problem is how to guard against complacency.
"We don't have too many experienced players, but it is important to seize our chances and put the opposition away, said Dhoni. "Being humble in cricket is very important."