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The England vs India test series has been one of the most highly anticipated series in a long time. India has done relatively well on the tour so far, winning the T20 series 2-1 and losing the ODI series 1-2. They will now play a five-match series, a length of contests usually reserved for the Ashes rivalry. India has made a lot of noise about being here to win rather than draw matches. England has been a bit subdued in making statements, perhaps, owing to their poor form at home in the recent past.
Both teams have a lot of questions to answer ahead of the first match.
The 2015 World Cup marked a low point for England in its quest for white ball success and the focus of the entire organization sort of veered towards the limited overs format after that. As a red ball side, England is no longer the world-beater it was around five years ago.
It has lost 10 out of the last 30 tests at home, including 4 out of the last 10.
Some of the potential weaknesses for England include their lack of stability at the top of the order, an aging fast bowling attack, and the absence of any quality spinners in the side. Alastair Cook has gone through 12 partners since 2012 and it is not like he has been in extremely good form himself.
Cook will likely be partnering with Keaton Jennings at the top of the order and will be hoping to get some runs early in the series.
Both the players have had a lot of success against India in the past but this Indian attack is certainly capable of making life difficult for the openers. England is a place where the new ball tends to do a bit for the better part of the first two sessions so the role of the openers is magnified.
The chief batsman for England, though, is not going to be Cook, Buttler, Bairstow or anyone else. It is going to be Root.
Joe Root has been a prolific scorer against India in the past, especially in home conditions, plays the spinners well and is in good form. We can totally see him having a dominant series and would recommend backing him to do so.
There is a lot of depth in the batting now that Stokes is back. How he goes after his scratchy performance in the ODI’s will be very interesting as well.
India will throw a lot of spin at the English batsmen and so the challenge for them will be to ensure that they maximize their first inning of the test when the spinners will not play a very big role. As far as England’s bowling goes, it is all about Broad and Anderson.
James Anderson has been doing well and picking up wickets but Stuart broad has come under pressure for his performances over the last year or so. The third seamer is going to be Porter with support from Stokes as the all-rounder.
The spinners, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali will be tested against India but can take stock from the fact they did well in the final couple of ODI’s. We, personally, think that picking Rashid was a mistake and that he will suffer in the tests to come.
Alastair Cook, KK Jennings, JE Root, Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, BA Stokes, Sam Curran, AU Rashid, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
India has been pretty good at traveling abroad ever since Virat Kohli came into the picture. They won in Sri Lanka, West Indies, played remarkably well in South Africa, and now have a chance to make history in England.
Can the Indian team, realistically win this test match, though?
India is going to be missing Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar for the first test. That’s two of their best new ball bowlers out of the reckoning and a huge blow to the team. The Indian top order is far from settled. Shikhar Dhawan got a pair in the only practice match, while Pujara has been struggling in England all summer.
Should India stick with Dhawan and Pujara or bring in Lokesh Rahul for one of the two? Does the team management take the gamble of unsettling their top-3 right at the start of the series? Seeing the history of left field selections by Kohli and Shastri in the past, we think it is likely to see Rahul play in place of Dhawan in this test.
India also has to decide who its best bowlers are. Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, and Ravi Ashwin seem to be a lock for the first test. Does India play Hardik Pandya as a bowling all-rounder and bat him at 7 below Dinesh Karthik or choose another batsman? Should India go for a second spinner if they are banking on some turn later in the match?
Here again, we feel that India will play Hardik Pandya because they seem him as someone who can change the match in a few overs. He had a good tour of South Africa and should be in the eleven for the first match.
India’s batting is going to be tested in this test. The top order will face swinging conditions after a long time and the Kohli vs Anderson battle will have everyone on the edge of their seats. Virat Kohli has said that this series is not about him scoring runs but India has next to no chance of winning if he does not have a good series.
Virat Kohli smashed England when they were in India and the fast bowlers will be waiting to get their own back at him. India’s batting is strong on paper with Rahul, Vijay, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, and Karthik to help counter punch but the role of Pandya and Ashwin is going to be very important as well.
India’s bowling looks capable of picking 2 wickets but there are a lot of questions here as well. Umesh Yadav can be very expensive in tests, Mohammad Shami has not bowled long spells for the last few months, and Ashwin has a lot to prove in English conditions. We think Ishant Sharma is going to be the best bowler for India in this series and recommend an early bet on him to take the most wickets.
M Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, V Kohli, Dinesh Karthik, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, I Sharma, Mohammed Shami.
The team winning the toss is likely to bat first
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The weather for the first test has been forecast to be pretty good. There is a 10% chance of rain on each day and the sun shining throughout. The dry conditions could even things out for the Indians even if there is some grass left on the pitch.
Speaking of conditions, there is no way that the surface will be bare for the first test. There is going to be grass, movement, and some pace in the pitch for the first day or two. The dry weather may bring some cracks into the picture and let the spinners take over later but that will only be around the fourth day onward.
Runs will be there to had for both the teams and a score of around 350 in the first inning could be considered a par score.
India is up against a lot going into this first match. They are missing key players, have an unsettled batting lineup, and has the weight of history against it as well. The sun is expected to shine throughout and that tends to change a lot of things for India.
We believe this could be an ideal opportunity for the Indian batsmen to score big and put pressure on the English bowlers from the outset. That will allow them to take the game deep and bring the spinners into play as well. If all of this does not happen, though, then England should find itself in the driving seat.
England is the clear favorite for the match, especially against India’s weakened bowling lineup. We recommend sticking with the hosts for the first match.
Back England to win.
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