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India versus England – one of the key series in the test calendar. It’s a huge test series, it’s only second in importance to the Ashes. There is always a lot of interest worldwide and with a billion keen Indians, there will always be that high amount of anticipation. This time there is nothing different with the peak interest, but there is the added bonus of a place in the World Test Championship Final being at stake. The Australians are also interested bystanders, dependent on the result, they themselves still maintain a slim chance of qualifying at the expense of both India and England.
England have just completed an absorbing 1st test victory in Chennai, with masterful performances from both Joe Root and James Anderson. However, based on India’s recent performance winning down under in Australia, they won’t go down without a fight and the expectation is that they will come back twice as hard at England.
Even with England’s 1st test victory, India are still favourites with the bookmakers. Betway have India at 2.3 to win the series, England at 2.8 and the drawn series is 3.5. India are at 3.8 to win the series 3-1, which is what a number of commentators were expecting before it all started. According to the bookies, England’s best chance of a win is a 2-1 victory which is at 6.0 at time of writing.
Both the teams boast a number of veterans, but also contains a number of rookies. Virat Kohli was always the top bet for most runs in the series, and with his showing in second innings of the first test where he was only undone by an unplayable ball that kept low on a fifth day pitch, still stands him in good stead. However, with the form that Joe Root is in, it’s also difficult to look past him. He scored 426 in the 2 test series in Galle, with 2 very unlucky run outs, and then top scored in the first test here with 218 in the first innings and a quick fire 40, off only 32 balls and only getting out going for a quick declaration, in the second innings. He’s averaging 114 in the Sub-Continent this year alone and the rest of the England team and fanbase will be hoping to see his form continue. It’s unlikely to ever be better.
After Kohli, there are a number of Indians who can score hundreds at this level. Cheteshwar Pujara, is the new “Wall” – some calling him Rahul Dravid 2.0 – who never gives his wicket away. The young Indians, Shubman Gill; Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar have made great starts to the test summer all scoring a half century in this test and matching that in Australia just a month or so ago.
For England, Dom Sibley is averaging 75 in his last 3 innings and the explosiveness of Ben Stokes and youthful exuberance of Ollie Pope will be key players that England fans want to see score runs. After a good showing by Jos Buttler, he’s on a plane back to the UK to fit with England’s rotation policy, so Ben Foakes will take his place. It will be interesting to see what England decide to do with young Dan Lawrence, only in his 3rd test; Zak Crawley who is out of the first two tests with a sprained wrist falling down in the practice dressing rooms; plus there’s also Moeen Ali who hasn’t played for England since getting dropped in August 2019 when Australia smacked his bowling around at Edgbaston, whilst scoring 4 runs in the test. However, he has played IPL for the past few years and has good averages with both bat and ball against the Indians.
In the bowling department, we’ve mentioned Jimmy Anderson who seems to have a Peter Pan quality in which he never seems to get older. His over where he took both Gill and Rahane’s wicket was sheer brilliance. The Cricketer magazine tweeted that he has started 2021 in nonsense-mode, averaging 9.9 after bowling almost 60 overs, taking 11 wickets in the past 2 tests. This is unlikely to continue, so he will need backup from Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad, but whether England rotate Anderson and Broad is yet to be seen. England must enjoy having Broad and Anderson, rated at 2nd and 3rd in the world, and the temptation to play them both must be high, There’s also whether Chris Woakes gets a game – although his average of 51 overseas, compared to 22 in the UK, will be a bit of a concern to the England selectors.
India have one of the best seam bowlers in world cricket in Jasprit Bumrah, and one of the best spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin. If the dry, dusty pitches continue, which we would expect, then they will both feature highly alongside the veteran Ishant Sharma, who like Anderson, seems to just get better with age.
The other spinners of both sides could be a concern, Virat Kohli called out both Sundar and Nadeem for giving him a lack of control in England’s first innings, and the one minor issue in England’s performance will be that both Jack Leach and Dom Bess got smashed about in different parts of the test. The fact that Bess got 4 wickets in the first innings and Jack Leach came back from his drubbing by Pant to take 6 wickets for 104. After taking 4 wickets in the first innings, Dom Bess struggled with his length in the second innings going at 6.25 from his 8 overs.
As is ever the case in India, the toss will be key to who wins the next test. There will be a 50% capacity of 25,000 screaming Indian fans a day so that will also make a difference to both teams – if India win the toss and get off to a good start, England will find it extremely difficult. However, England will be looking to win another toss and quieten the Indian fans, giving them the best chance of going 2-0 in the series and unable to lose.
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