Virat Kohli would like to prefer experience over experiment in the first test match.
The 5-Test India England 2021 series is all set to start on Wednesday, August 4, at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. After facing a 3-1 defeat against India earlier this year, England will be looking forward to settle the scores in their home Test summer. This 5-Test series will be a crucial determinant in ascertaining India’s ascend in Test cricket.
India coming off a loss in WTC Final and a draw against County Select XI
After their loss in the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) Final, Team India stayed back in England to gear up for the upcoming Tests. Although match practice has been close to none, the team did get to play a one-off first-class game against a County Select XI at Chester-le-Street to help them prepare and possibly decide on their starting XI.
Opening batter KL Rahul hit an unbeaten 101 runs in the first innings of the match against County Select XI to make a case for his inclusion in the starting eleven for the first Test. Hanuma Vihari and Ravindra Jadeja also displayed good batting performances. Umesh Yadav was the pick of the bowlers as he was able to get purchase from the pitch with 3 wickets to his name. Haseeb Hameed who has been selected in the England Test squad, played that game and made an impressive 112 runs for the County Select XI.
Squad selection and injury updates
India - Mayank Agarwal ruled out due to concussion
India, on the other hand, are also battling with injury issues. Washington Sundar and Avesh Khan sustained injuries during the County XI match up, ruling them out of the Test series.
Pritivi Shaw and Suryakumar Yadav have been named as replacements but won’t be available for the first two Tests as their arrival was delayed due to Krunal Pandya testing positive for COVID-19 on the Sri Lanka tour. However, they both tested negative later and are on their way to join team India in England. Mayank Agarwal was also ruled out of the first Test after a head concussion following being hit by a Mohammed Siraj bouncer during net practice.
Who will replace Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order?
Due to the unavailability of Mayank Agarwal in the first Test, KL Rahul is most likely to take his place. Hanuma Vihari is another option for the opening slot along with reserve opener Abhimanyu Easwaran. However, it is unlikely that the team management will take the risk of trying out an entirely new combination against the potent threat of James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the seamers’ home conditions. Besides, KL Rahul is an experienced hand and with his century in the tour game will be confident to take to the pitch along with Rohit Sharma to further India’s chances in the series.
India are likely to play with one spinner due to the forecasted overcast conditions. It will be interesting to see whether Mohammad Siraj will get a place in the starting XI and if so, in whose place.
England - Ben Stokes to miss out due to mental health concerns
Ahead of the Test summer, England have let go of their rest and rotation policy and will be playing a full-strength team barring the exclusion of Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes and Ollie Pope due to injury concerns.
Their star all-rounder, Ben stokes will also be missing from the Tests as he has taken an indefinite break citing mental health concerns and the recovery of his left index finger. Although a big blow for England, his decision has been positively received by the entire cricketing community emphasizing on the importance of mental health in the light of cricketers playing in closed bio-secure bubbles. India’s vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, in the pre-match press conference, echoed the same sentiments, talking about the challenges in the post-COVID era and how Stokes’ decision is respected by him and his peers.
Haseeb Hameed might open in place of Dominic Sibley after a string of low scores recorded by the latter in his recent international outings. Jonny Bairstow is likely to bat at number 3. Jos Buttler and Sam Curran might occupy the number 6 and 7 positions, respectively. Read More: India vs England Tests Record – England lead India by 19-11
Weather forecast and pitch report
The weather is likely to play spoilsport during the first Test, with rain expected on days 2, 3, 4 and 5. If one goes by the image shared by BCCI on its Twitter handle, the wicket at Trent Bridge seems to be bowler-friendly with a good covering of grass.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Batting against the Dukes ball has always been a challenge for India and the pace attack of England headed by Stuart Broad and James Anderson only raises the stakes of what is to come. India haven’t won a Test series in England since 2007 and won only 2 of the last 14 Test matches played there while losing a staggering 11 of them.
What is going for the team is their confidence on the back of good recent performances and team balance, thanks to spinning all-rounders in Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin who are averaging in late 20s in SENA countries during past two years. Also, their recent performances are mouth watering too, while Ravindra Jadeja strengthen batting order, Ashwin gives stability with ball. It will be interesting to see how Virat Kohli goes about this combination.
England also seem to be struggling in their batting department, on the back of their 0-1 loss against New Zealand earlier this summer. Although in home conditions, they will be at an advantage and the series is expected to be a hard-fought one with good cricket being played throughout the 5 games.
India (Probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul/Abhimanyu Easwaran, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Ishant Sharma/Mohammad Siraj, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
England (Probable): 1 Rory Burns, 2 Dom Sibley, 3 Zak Crawley, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Ollie Pope/Jonny Bairstow, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Sam Curran, 8 Ollie Robinson, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Jack Leach, 11 James Anderson
India vs England 1st Test match begins at 03:30 PM IST. Following the first Test, India and England will battle it out in the second Test which will be played at Lord’s in London from August 12-16. The third Test will be played at Headingley in Leeds from August 25-29. The fourth Test will be played at the Oval in London from September 2-6 while the fifth and final Test of the series will be played at the Old Trafford in Manchester from September 10-14.