London : 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, rather than head to 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 beats 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 has been unbeaten in its last eight series and has won its 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 is unbeaten in its 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 warmup 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 has had very little time to acclimatize and this was flagged when it was bowled out for 224 after being 90-6 against Somerset.
Fletcher will become the first head coach for 100 matches.
England: Played 96: Won 42, Lost 30, Drawn 24.
India: Played 3: Won 1, Drawn 2.
Lord's pitches tend to be flat and England may struggle to bowl India out twice. Bresnan suffered a stress fracture to his left foot after bowling 50 overs in the Lord's Test against Bangladesh last year. On the fifth day at the Rose Bowl, England took just two Sri Lanka wickets in 55 overs, which included a new ball after lunch.
HEAD TO HEAD
Played 99: England 34, India 19, Drawn 46.
In England: 48: England 23, India 5, Drawn 20.
England has won only four and lost 10 of the last 27 Tests between the sides.
England: Played 120, Won 46, Lost 27, Drawn 47.
India: Played 15, England 10, India 1, Drawn 4.
India's only victory at Lord's was in the first Test in 1986. They played 11 warmup matches in the month before the game: Six three-day games and five limited-overs matches. It was England's sixth Test defeat in a row and captain David Gower was sacked a few minutes after the match.
England is unbeaten in its last 11 Tests at Lord's.
The average first-innings score at Lord's is 312.
England: Andrew Strauss made his debut at Lord's in May 2004 and scored 112 and 83 before falling victim to a Nasser Hussain run out that led to Hussain resigning the captaincy. Strauss has scored four of his 19 hundreds here in 15 Tests and has 1,364 runs at 56.83. Only Graham Gooch with 2,015 and Alec Stewart with 1,476 have scored more Test runs here.
India: Sachin Tendulkar is arguably the greaTest batsman to have played the game. He has played more Tests, scored more runs and more hundreds than any other player. He made his first Test appearance against Pakistan on Nov. 15, 1989 aged 16 in Karachi, and if anything, he seems even more in love with the game now, aged 38. He averages 56.94 overall in Tests, but 61.42 against England, the highest against any side excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
He has played 631 internationals made up of 177 Tests, 453 ODIs and a T20. He has 32,813 international runs: 14,692 in Tests, 18,111 in ODIs and 10 in T20, and 200 wickets made up of 45 in Tests, 154 in ODIs and one in T20. He says simply, "I'm not thinking of records. I'm just thinking of enjoying this tour."
This is the 2,000th Test. The first thousand took from March 1877 to November 1984, more than 107 years. The second thousand have taken under 27 years, with Zimbabwe and Bangladesh added to the mix.
It is the 100th Test between England and India. The first was in June 1932 and England beat a weak India side which was suffering from injuries as well as missing the captain and vice-captain. Fast bowler Bill Bowes took six wickets on debut.
Alastair Cook's last six scores have been 50 or more: 82, 189, 133, 96, 106 and 55. One more will equal the record of seven successive fifties held jointly by Everton Weekes, Andy Flower and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Jonathan Trott needs 133 runs for 2,000. This is his 22nd Test and his next innings will be his 35th. Currently, Kevin Pietersen and Herbert Sutcliffe hold the England record for being the fasTest to 2,000 runs with 22 Tests apiece, though Sutcliffe took only 33 innings to Pietersen's 41.