London, Jul 19: The world waits to see if Sachin Tendulkar can crown a great career by scoring his 100th international hundred at Lord's this week.
Two milestones are in place already: This will be the 2,000th Test and the 100th between England and India.
Tendulkar scored his 99th hundred against South Africa in the World Cup on March 12 in Nagpur. Since then his scores in ODIs have been 2, 53, 85 and 18. His last international innings was in the World Cup final against Sri Lanka in April when he lasted just 14 balls.
He played for Mumbai Indians in the IPL then came to England early to prepare for the tour, opting not to go to the West Indies with the national team. He has spent the time in his flat near Lord's, going to Wimbledon, and practicing regularly in the Lord's nets, taking his 11-year-old son Arjun with him.
In seven Test innings at Lord's his scores have been 10, 27, 31, 16, 12, 37 and 16. There is no Test ground in the world where he has played so many innings without scoring a fifty.
If England beat India by a margin of two Tests they will leapfrog South Africa to go top of the ICC world rankings for the first time.
England have been unbeaten in their last eight series and has won their last five.
The four Tests, starting on Thursday, will be played in 33 days.
Andrew Strauss returns as England captain after a successful one-day series campaign by his replacement Alastair Cook.
The only question in England's increasingly settled side is whether Tim Bresnan, recovered from a calf injury, will replace Stuart Broad. Bresnan took 11 wickets at 19.54 in the last two matches of the Ashes. Broad, who suffered injuries during the winter, has looked under-par this summer. He took eight wickets at 48.75 in three Tests against Sri Lanka.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has captained India to the top of the world Test rankings and they have won trophies in all three formats under his captaincy. They won the World Cup for the first time since 1983 after he promoted himself up the order and scored 91 not out off 79 balls. In 2007 they won the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa under him. In 27 Tests under Dhoni, he has won 15, and lost three. Only Ganguly, with 21 wins out of 49, has won more matches for India.
All of the Tests Dhoni has lost have been the first match of a series. India are unbeaten in their last 11 series.
Among the subplots to this series, Duncan Fletcher masterminded England's 2005 Ashes victory and returns as opposition coach. He was desperate to get some batting practice for his charges in the only warm-up game at Taunton, but was refused permission to change the first-class match to a 12 or 13-a-side game.
As is usual nowadays, India have had very little time to acclimatize and this was flagged when they were bowled out for 224 after being 90/6 against Somerset.
Fletcher will become the first head coach for 100 matches. AP