THE acid test for Andrew Strauss and his England side starts in St John’s Wood, London NW8 8QN , next Thursday.

The England camp have made no bones about the fact that they want to become the top dogs when it comes to Test cricket and they are about to have to show us how much they mean it.

While we all love the passion and the warfare in an Ashes series against the old enemy Australia, it is against India that England will either prove themselves as genuine contenders for the crown of best in the world – or just be shown to be not quite up to the mark.

After the clash at headquarters there will be further meetings at Trent Bridge, Edgbaston and the Oval, and only a series win will be good enough for the home side.

However, that is not going to be easy to achieve.

For a start a billion-plus fans in India will be expecting a record 100th ton when Sachin Tendulkar walks out to bat in the first cricket Test at Lord’s.

While the masterful former Yorkshire player has humbly dodged the issue, you have got to feel that he will regard this as the perfect stage on which to produce a landmark innings.

And there is a good chance for some of India’s star turns this might be their last chance to strut their stuff in England – ‘the home of the game’.

The likes of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and skipper MS Dhoni will not be arriving on these shores for a bit of a knock-about.

India are a side who are used to winning, and more to the point they like winning in style if they can manage it.

England are no slouches themselves right now, but the recent Test series success over Sri Lanka was workmanlike rather than spectacular.

Admittedly the weather did no one any favours, but all the same while their batting line-up was impressive the Sri Lankans bowling attack is currently something of a work in progress after the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga.

So everything is set for a series against India that should be even more dramatic than an Ashes showdown – and I say that because since the turn of the century England have won Test series against eight out of nine opponents and the only ones they haven’t mastered ... India!

WHILE not wanting to set a nasty precedent, I have decided in the style of Radio One DJs of yesteryear, to do a ‘request’ slot.

For those of us who report on sport we have all regularly been told over the years by supporters that we ‘should stick that in your newspaper’.

Usually the word newspaper in this sentence is actually preceded by either an earthy or somewhat floral adjective not for consumption in a family orientated publication.

In fact, the subject matter that such individuals are usually trying to promote is also often not of a nature that would generally sit comfortably on your average local newsagent’s shelves.

But this week I was told ‘you should get that in your next report’ and for once I cannot help but comply.

As I have noted before in this column, I have the honour of turning out in the Sellers Evening Cricket League for Carsons Builders – who now having scored their third league success of the season are poised to make a late, yet futile, push for promotion.

The most recent success came in a last ball thriller that saw Golcar Commercial beaten by two runs and the hero of the whole show was Carsons bowler and local fireman Daryl Schofield.

In a spell of controlled medium pace bowling Daryl laid waste to the Golcar order and claimed a hat trick into the bargain.

I have to admit I was more amazed when, as we wandered from the field, he revealed that it was his first hat trick of his career – and not to be rude, Daz is hardly 21 any more.