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The first test match between England and India was everything that the pre-series hype promised. Both the teams slugged it out with each other and the match was in balance till the very last wicket fell. The entire test match lasted just three days and one session on the fourth day but the quality of cricket was exceptional to see. India would be very disappointed at not having been able to win this after getting into some very strong positions. England would also be similarly concerned at its batting depth going forward into the series.
Court cases, poor form, and niggles mean that both teams will probably make some changes ahead of the second test match as well. If Lord’s witnesses anything close to what we say in Birmingham then we are in for another week of heart-stopping test cricket.
England will know that it got away with a win even though its performance was far from compelling. Now, with Ben Stokes missing from the squad due to his court case, the pressure on the other players to step up becomes even more.
England has made two changes to the side for the second test. Ben Stokes has been replaced by Chris Woakes and Dawid Malan has been replaced by Ollie Pope. The decision to replace Stokes with Woakes in the playing eleven, though, may not be as straightforward.
The pitch at Lord’s is expected to be dry underneath whatever layer of grass is left behind by the curator and that will bring the spinners into play. Adil Rashid did not have too much to do in the first test and Joe Root only used him when the tailenders were batting. With Stokes missing, Root will be tempted to play Ali for his off-spin as well as his batting abilities.
Whoever plays, though, the top-order will be under pressure going into this match.
Alastair Cook got two absolutely brilliant deliveries from Ashwin in the first match and that is not really something he can plan against. He will face Ashwin early in the next test match for sure and the pressure of not having scored big runs for quite some time now will grow on him.
We are not all doom and gloom about England’s batting, though.
Cook has not really got in so far, Jennings looked good in the first inning before getting out unluckily, Root scored runs, Bairstow got runs, and Sam Curran got runs. Dawid Malan has been replaced by Ollie Pope and only Butler remains the one genuine batsman that England will worry about.
England was in a very good position in the first inning of the first test at 216-3 before they collapsed. If they can keep India out in the field for longer durations then the bowling could wilt pretty quickly.
The question now is of the surface that England will play on. The Duke ball swings all throughout the day and if the surfaces start to spin then the Indian spinner(s) could be a real threat.
The bowling for England is much more settled. Jimmy Anderson bowled brilliantly without much reward, Ben Stokes was lethal, Stuart Broad started to get better as the match went on, and Sam Curran showed immense skill to cement his place in the side for some time to come.
Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali/ Chris Woakes are excellent bowlers to round out the attack. England may not have a great home record of late and the batting may need some work but the bowling attack looks quite sorted at the moment.
Alastair Cook, KK Jennings, JE Root, Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, CR Woakes, Sam Curran, AU Rashid, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
Take Virat Kohli out this match and we would have seen an absolute procession. The Indian batsmen failed to adapt and put up a fight. Even Kohli was lucky to have been dropped in the first inning before he got his bearings and went on to play one of the most spectacular innings you will ever see.
India has massive problems going into this match and there are no easy solutions. All the batsmen apart from Virat Kohli failed. Does India pick and choose the ones they feel batted worst or does it give the entire side another go?
We have a feeling that India will resist the temptation to make too many changes and keep the side more or less the same.
Shikhar Dhawan must surely know that he is drinking at the last chance saloon. His dismissals in both the innings of the first test match were atrocious. Does he have the temperament to be able to reign in his natural game and still find a way to succeed in England? We think he does but if he does not deliver in this game then his test career is going to receive a serious jolt.
India and Virat Kohli have made it clear that they want players who can win them matches abroad. Most Indian batsmen will be able to score runs in home conditions and so that cannot save people like Dhawan for too long.
Murali Vijay and KL Rahul could get a longer run based on their past performances and the fact that India cannot change everyone out! Pujara missed out in the first test and the clamor for his inclusion is going to be very loud. Pujara has shown the tenacity to fight it out in tough conditions and even though he has not had a good county season, he could replace Dhawan without any questions being asked.
The problems for India do not stop there, though. Ajinkya Rahane at 5 has gone from being India’s most reliable batsman overseas to a liability. He should be able to keep his place in the side because Kohli rates him highly but Rahane is also coming to the end of this tether.
Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, and Ravichandran Ashwin make for a weak middle order. Karthik looked at sea against the swinging ball, Ashwin struggles with genuine pace, and Pandya made some adjustments to bat better in the second inning but his technique is flawed too.
With India likely to play a second spinner in this match, Pandya’s position is the most vulnerable.
Bumrah could be fit for this match and in that case walk into the team but we think he will play from the third test on. In the meantime, India has to decide whether to play 2 fast bowlers, 2 spinners, and Pandya as the all-rounder or three fast bowlers and two spinners.
Our gut feeling suggests that Umesh Yadav will miss out in favor of Kuldeep Yadav but Kohli is going to hold his cards close to the chest and wait until the very last minute to give an idea of his plans.
India has a lot to think about and needs its players to stand up. Kohli, Ishant Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Mohammad Shami are the only ones that played to potential. They cannot paper over the cracks for the rest of the team repeatedly.
M Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, V Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, I Sharma.
The team winning the toss is likely to bat first
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The forecast for the test match is a mixed one. It should start out being cloudy with a slight chance of rain on the first two days and then get gloomier as the week goes on. Rain has been predicted for the third, fourth, and fifth day of the test match but it is not the kinds that will continue throughout the day.
Plenty of cloud cover, swinging deliveries, and some interruptions should be expected in the second test match.
The pitch is going to be very interesting to see. There is certainly going to be grass on it but the surface underneath should offer spin as the match goes on. Batting will be tough on the first day but be at its best on the second and third day before getting worse. The Duke ball swings all throughout and so we should have an even contest between the bat and ball.
England comes into this test match without Ben Stokes, their talisman from the first game. We believe the bowling friendly conditions and the prospect of spin will bring India back into the test. We are also confident of seeing a better batting performance from the visitors.
Back India to win and even the series.