How much advantage do the home sides have?

HARARE - While most sport lovers have been going about their daily tasks red-eyed and bad-tempered due to lack of sleep, or their team being eliminated in the crucial round of the ongoing Fifa World Cup, I have thankfully no such trouble.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed as ever, I have been rubbing my hands together with genuine anticipation as I eagerly await the start of what promises to be two fascinating series.

I am of course referring to the five Test match series between England and India which got underway on Wednesday, as well as the three match ODI series, followed by two Test matches between Sri Lanka and South Africa.

England have found themselves on a steady free fall after the 5-0 drubbing they received at the hands of Australia earlier this year, and were then dealt another blow when they were beaten 1-0 by a plucky Sri Lankan team about three weeks ago.

Staff change and a slump in form have left the once confident team looking like rabbits caught in the headlights of a car.

Their captain Alastair Cook has been under fire by both the media and former players for his lack of runs, and for his one dimensional captaincy which has even caused him to speak out against former Australian great Shane Warne, who has been Cook's biggest critic, saying that Warne has overstepped the line and that something needs to be done about it.

The unfortunate reality for Mr Cook is that Warne has always been a sledger...whether it was with a cricket ball in hand, or with a microphone attached to his lip-ell.

India most certainly have a point to prove- despite their impeccable record at home and indeed on the Sub continent, the glamor boys of world cricket have a shoddy away win record.

In fact, their last 14 Tests away from home have seen India draw 10 and lose four, a record that MS Dhoni says is a "area of great concern".

Surprisingly the wicket at Trent Bridge looks to be an absolute belter to bat on.

This apparently is due to the new drainage facilities that have been installed around all the major playing surfaces in England.

For some reason, it has affected the pitches, making them more batting friendly, which blunts the contest between the red ball and bat in the longer version of the game.

India's last five match test series was against the West Indies back in 2002, while England have rather recently played Australia in 10 consecutive test matches, both home and away.

Meanwhile South Africa will have their work cut out as they take on Sri Lanka in three One-Day Internationals, followed by two back-to-back Test matches.

South Africa have notoriously had problems with decent spinners, especially on the lower and slower pitches in the sub-continent.

This series has the making of being one of the highlights of the year, and it is a crying shame that it has been truncated to two Tests.

It is pretty hard to pick a definite winner in this contest, so I will be a proverbial fence sitter, and forecast a one all draw in the two Test match series.

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