x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

England's huge Indian challenge gets tougher with Finn injury

Bowlers toil on opening day of tour game as teammates welcome Pietersen into fold like 'having any player come back'.

England's Kevin Pietersen, right, celebrates with teammate Ian Bell.
England's Kevin Pietersen, right, celebrates with teammate Ian Bell.

MUMBAI // Kevin Pietersen's return to England colours amounted to mere "business as usual" for his teammates, on a day when Steven Finn's thigh injury proved a much graver concern.

Pietersen achieved a notable step towards completing his "reintegration" after his summer of discontent, taking the field for his adopted country for the first time since being dropped for the final Test at Lord's more than two months ago.

The South Africa-born batsman's route back to favour has been a tortuous process, involving talks with management and senior players and a public show of contrition for his controversial behaviour.

But if there was any lingering resentment following the breakdown in relations over contract wrangles, "provocative" text messages and that spoof Twitter account, it was not in evidence - from a distance at least - as England and Pietersen reacquainted themselves on the field at the start of what is sure to prove a tough Test series against India.

Tim Bresnan confirmed that observation as he reflected on a taxing day one of three in the tour opener, which India A finished on 369 for nine at the Brabourne Stadium.

Manoj Tiwary, top scored with 93, after Yuvraj Singh and Abhinav Mukund had both also hit half-centuries, as the hosts flourished despite three hard-earned wickets each for the seamer Bresnan and the off-spinner Graeme Swann.

The fast bowler Finn limped off the field after bowling the first over of his second spell. He is expected to have a scan to determine the cause of the problem in his right leg, an England spokesperson said.

As for the inevitable Pietersen issue, Bresnan said: "It's pretty much business as usual. I don't suppose you'd be able to see from the outside looking in ... that it's anything than normal.

"I'm pretty sure most of the lads in the dressing room were expecting it to be like that - and that's what it was like. For the lads, it's nothing different to having [any] player come back into the squad who's been missing for a while."

It is well documented that Pietersen's return has been achieved only after a series of meetings with the new Test captain Alastair Cook and other players.

"Everyone in the know has sat down and spoken about it," Bresnan said.

"But apart from that, for the rest of the boys, I guess it's just like having someone who's been injured coming back into the side.

"There's nothing exceptionally different. He's the same old Kev - energy in the field that he showed today, all day. He's just Kev. It's been good."

Bresnan had to bowl 20 overs, as Finn managed just four before limping off and leaving England with only two front line seamers.

"Obviously, we're disappointed one of our fast bowlers had to go off," Bresnan said. "But it's one of those things where you just have to step up a bit, and each of you has to take on his responsibility.

"We're not sure what's happening. The doc will check him out at the hotel. All we know is it's hurting, and scans will reveal more."

Cook said his team were determined to defy history and win a Test series in India for the first time in 27 years.

"This is undoubtedly a huge challenge for us," Cook told reporters after the squad arrived in Mumbai for the double-leg tour which also includes two Twenty20 games and five one-day internationals.

"History suggests it is hard to win in India. After all we have not won a series here in almost 30 years.

"But we have a great squad determined to do well. We are aware of the challenges and look forward to the series.

"It is going to be a huge series because it is between two very good sides. Both sides have world-class players and whoever handles the conditions better will win."

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