England vs India: Test Series Preview
In a summer of hot, dry weather more akin to Mumbai than Manchester, in a summer of an Indian team arriving clear at the top of the Test rankings table and in a summer where England’s Test performances have been mediocre at best, one could easily look at this five-Test series between two heavyweights of the international cricket scene and predict a win, only the fourth time it would have happened, for the away team.
While the two sides traded entertaining blows of an equal measure in the one day games, they merely served as an appetiser to the main course, and this series has much resting on it from various angles that only add to the intrigue of the game’s oldest format. From the home side’s point of view, they come into this series having won only one of their last nine Tests – albeit their last one – and with pressure mounting, in the Test arena at least, on coach Trevor Bayliss. The Australian at the helm has given views over the past few months indicating that he doesn’t seem as interested, and is reluctant to make changes in the job as Test coach as he should be, claiming that despite the poor performances “more than likely there will be the same men involved. They are good players; they have all scored runs but they need to do it more often”; an attitude that appears very simplistic.
Conversely, Virat Kohli seems to have made it a personal mission to improve upon India’s woeful record outside of the sub-continent. A narrow, but spirited 2-1 defeat to South Africa earlier this year has given the team more cause for optimism than anything else, yet their stats still make for grim reading. They have only had four successes outside of Asia since 1986 (31 series), and two of those came against a beleaguered West Indies side – put simply it’s a showing that needs addressing.
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When playing India, good spin bowling becomes imperative, as Indian batsmen gobble up anything remotely average, so England’s current spin travails also don’t bode well. England are expected to turn back to Jack Leach, who impressed on debut in New Zealand earlier on in the year, but suffered a broken thumb just before the Pakistan series in May, and as admirably as his replacement Dom Bess performed, Leach has been the best spinner on the county scene for a good few years. One tried and tested route that Ed Smith and the selectors may go down however is that of Adil Rashid, whose outstanding performances in the one day matches against Australia and India have led to him supposedly reconsidering his sabbatical from the First Class scene.
If India are to win, their captain will have to step up to the table. “King” Kohli, arguably the best batsman in the world right now, especially considering Steve Smith’s recent activities, has scored runs all round the world in all formats – with one exception. English conditions appear to be the kryptonite to Kohli’s superman-esque powers as a batsman, averaging less than 14 on his last tour here in 2014. A man who has said on record that he aspires to be the best cricketer of his generation, his performances in England are a blemish he will desperately seek to correct.
So with England’s overall poor recent Test record and their troubles in finding a suitable spinner, especially in this driest of summers, coupled with India and Kohli’s insistence on improving their and his overseas record respectively, this series has all the hallmarks of a cracking encounter. If the rain continues to stay away, these 5 tests, a significant amount, could continue this great summer for English sport.
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