A perfectly set up game at Nottingham ends in an anti-climactic draw due to persistent rain on day 5: Recap, analysis and Preview of Lord’s Test.
Ever since England’s 1-3 loss to India in January of 2021, the teams along with spectators have been anticipating the start of the India’s tour of England. The anticipation draws from how the teams would perform when the tables are reversed and spectators are rearing to see the rivalry progress in the 5-Test match up in the old country.
Experts would agree that India is one of only two Test teams (New Zealand being the other) in current world cricket who can successfully challenge their opposition in away tours. That being said, India have lost the previous three times (2011, 2014, 2018) they have toured England and moreover the latter aren’t ones to be beaten easily in their territory.
India’s recent successes along with the challenge of overcoming difficult foreign conditions promises gipping, close-fought cricket over the coming month.
The first Test, despite its anti-climactic finish, has served as a perfect entrée to indulge spectators with just enough ambiguity to build on the anticipation and provoke multiple debates amongst the cricketing world.
Joe Root - But who’s next for England?
Joe Root was named Player of the Match in the drawn first Test between India and England, for his 64 and 109 across the two innings. He was no doubt the star performer from the England team but his recurring superhero effort to keep their team competitive is a growing concern for the home side. England’s top 3 – Rory Burns, Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley - have been struggling for a while with average performances and a breakthrough series from them would be a much-needed respite for England.
Former English skipper Michael Vaughan, in an article for The Telegraph stated that he expects Sibley, Crawley and Dan Lawrence to be dropped giving chances to Hasseb, Malan and Ollie Pope instead. On the other hand, Jonny Bairstow has been a positive coming out of the first Test with his 29 and 30 in the first Test helping to push the momentum in their favor in an otherwise low scoring match-up.
KL Rahul - A well-made 84 is sometimes better than a 100
After restricting England to a low first innings total of 183, it was crucial for India’s openers to get a solid start in order to take advantage of the brilliant bowling effort put in by the pace quadrant the day before.
KL Rahul, in difficult overcast conditions, displayed gritty batting, leaving the balls outside the off-stump – his nemesis on the 2018 tour - to bat through multiple sessionsand rain breaks showing his ability and temperament to bat long and contribute.
Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja were the other two positive take-aways from the first Test. Although Rohit, wasn’t able to score the big runs he’s known for, his form and approach towards batting in England looks to be promising. That being said, things are far from perfect for Team India.
India’s middle-order, with Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane at numbers 3,4 and 5 respectively, are struggling to find form. They are averaging a lowly 30, 25 and 20 respectively since the start of 2021. Many experts have pointed out the technical issues which have crept up in Pujara’s game, making him vulnerable to taking the outside edge and a lack of footwork in general. “Rohit and KL played really well. So, we are comfortable with how we are placed. We do not feel that we are batsmen short if Shardul does not play. For us, it is about finding that right balance, if Shardul is not available, we will try to take 20 wickets first and we feel comfortable with how the first Test went," Virat Kohli said at the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
Team Combinations – A Talking Point which relents to cede ground
The absence of Ben stokes leaves a huge hole in England’s team balance forcing them to go for 4 out and out seam bowlers. Hence, going into the Test matches ahead, Moeen Ali is expected to be included providing another bowling option with addition to his batting talent.
Also, Stuart Broad has been ruled out of the Test series against India after tearing his right calf muscle. Saqib Mahmood has been called as cover by England team management for the Lord's Test. However, Mark Wood is ready to replace him in playing XI in the 2nd Test. Broad will miss out on what would have been his 150th Test for England, had he played at Lord's.
As far as India are concerned, Ravichandran Ashwin’s exclusion has been a big topic of debate for fans all over the country. It is less a sign of his quality as a player and more about the depth of the Team India.
Though Ashwin remains the superior bowler out of the two spinners, the current balance of the playing 11 doesn’t allow his selection. Number 7 is one too high to bat for the Tamil Nadu spinner and the overcast conditions with the ever-present possibility of rain haven’t yet allowed the inclusion of two spinners. With Shardul Thakur sustaining a hamstring injury the other day, there is a probability of seamer Ishant Sharma or off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin making the cut for Lord's Test.
As the template has been set as pointed out by India skipper Virat Kohli after the first Test, it would be surprising if the number 2 Test bowler in the world doesn’t get a game in the second Test or Ishant Sharma replaces Shardul and Siraj continues in the playing XI.
In difficult conditions, every decision matters
In a close-fought series, the difference very well comes down to who takes better decisions in crucial moments. It is safe to say that the Decision Review System (DRS) calls from both teams were blunderous in the first Test.
Moreover, England’s fielding with multiple uncapitalised run-out opportunities, dropped catches and shaky slip catching have not done them any favours. KL Rahul, who was the highest run-scorer for India in the first Test was dropped twice in the slips which added to India’s already prominent advantage. Luckily for England, the game ending in a washout did not highlight the outcomes of the slip-ups but questions need to be asked and worked on going into the rest of the series.
The second Test is set to begin on Thursday, August 12 at Lord’s. The weather forecast looks positive with likely uninterrupted play through the five days. The pitch will be a balanced one with batting easiest in the first innings but also, good bounce and carry is expected to be available that will assist the pacers. Spin will come into play on days 4 and 5 and with Virat’s closing comments on the team template being set, it will be interesting to see whether they stick to the previous formula or play two spinners with the inclusion of Ashwin.
India 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Cheteshwar Pujuara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin/Ishant Sharma, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Mohammed Siraj
England 1 Rory Burns, 2 Dom Sibley, 3 Zak Crawley/Haseeb Hameed, 4 Joe Root (capt.), 5 Jonny Bairstow, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Sam Curran, 9 Ollie Robinson, 10 Mark Wood, 11 Craig Overton/Saqib Mahmood Read More: India vs England, 1st Test – Indian seamers take all 20 opposition wickets for second time