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England tuning up for first Test clash.

ENGLAND went into their penultimate net session today fine-tuning their selection plans for the Mohali Test.

While the will-they-won't-they scenario has been incessant in the build-up to Monday's match here, coach Duncan Fletcher and captain Nasser Hussain have been planning on-field matters, in conference with chairman of selectors David Graveney.

Graveney arrived in India yesterday and further discussions will take place over the weekend.

At least one of the 17-man party will receive their debut Test cap against Saurav Ganguly's side.

While it is clear that the tourists' bowling attack will have an unusual look to it in the absence of regular new ball duo Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick, Ganguly has been angered by the Indian selection policy.

He arrived back in the country on Thursday and has since spoken out against the snubbing of Ashish Nehra, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan for an untried pace trio.

For England, James Foster will be handed a Test debut - he has been preferred to Warren Hegg in all three warm-up matches - with Alec Stewart choosing not to tour.

Another 21-year-old, Yorkshire spinner Richard Dawson, has been provided with a chance to push his claims alongside Martyn Ball with Robert Croft, like Caddick, opting out of the series with security fears.

Meanwhile, Caddick's Somerset new ball partner Richard Johnson impressed in his first appearance in an England shirt with three wickets in the first innings against India A.

"The opportunity has been given to a number of players, our younger guys, because of certain circumstances, " said Graveney.

"Two players chose that they did not want to tour before world events.

Another two did not want to tour because of world events."

Such opportunities, if taken, could yet establish some of the up-and-coming talent within a changing England set-up.

But Graveney warned: "The people that replace them will be judged on their performances. However, they are replacing world-class players within our team."

The fitness of Warwickshire's left-arm spinner Ashley Giles will be a key issue for late discussion.

Having bowled for the first time since July this week, following his Achilles injury, a bruised heel incurred against India A has left his place in doubt, although a scan revealed no excessive damage.

His absence would all but guarantee Dawson a place and Graveney added:

"If Ashley does play there is an element of risk.

"But if he doesn't I don't think that in a scenario of back-to-back Test matches the team will never be changed.

"The modern series means that you have a group of players, if you need to change the team, that can come in on the back of good practice."

Fletcher has made his intention of fielding two all-rounders - Craig White and Andrew Flintoff, who both bowled impressively against the Indian secondstring in Jaipur - quite clear.

The duo will occupy the number six and seven spots and, with Fletcher identifying the need to play five bowlers, if England accommodate two spinners Flintoff would take the new ball with Matthew Hoggard.

But traditionally, Mohali's greentinged strip encourages the seamers.

Groundsman Daljit Singh said he was bemused after being told by the Indian board to prepare a "fast, hard, bouncy wicket".

Much to Singh's surprise, the home selectors made England's inexperienced attack look like veterans by dropping all of their pacemen on duty in South Africa, opting for Sanjay Bangar, Iqbal Siddique and Tinu Yohanan - a cap-less trio who have played against England on this tour.

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PUTTING IT DOWN ON PAPER England coach Duncan Fletcher ponders his team selection ahead of the first Test against India in Mohali. PICTURE: PA Sport
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 1, 2001
Words:601
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