England, India battle in Birmingham

The high-octane England-India Test series kick starts on August 1 at Edgbaston in Birmingham. India currently sits pretty at the top of the Test rankings while Joe Root’s England find themselves on the number five spot.

It has always been a daunting task for the visiting team to beat England in England. But can India be good tourists? Only time will tell.

Before both the teams lock horns in the series opener on Wednesday, we take a look at what the potential combinations could be like.

From the Indian dressing room:

India will look up to Murali Vijay for solidity up the order. Vijay was India’s highest run-getter when they visited the country in 2014. He scored a gritty half-century on a green Chelmsford track showing what he is capable of.

Shikhar Dhawan’s form may just enable Kohli and the team management to push KL Rahul at the top. Cheteshwar Pujara not scoring runs may also play on Ravi Shastri’s mind but the team management will back him to come good against the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

Virat Kohli himself had a very dismal series when India toured England last where he managed only 134 runs from 5 Tests. When he walks out at Edgbaston, he will have a point to prove. Moreover, India’s chances will also rest with the way Kohli performs.

The number five spot is a critical spot especially considering the second new ball coming into consideration. Ajinkya Rahane occupies this spot for India. The Indian vice-captain has performed well away from India and a lot will rest on his shoulders in Edgbaston too.

India’s batting has further depth with Dinesh Karthik most likely to keep wickets. Hardik Pandya at number 7 is a good bet for any team. The all-rounder has the capability to score quick runs and will be India’s wild card to counter the likes of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid considering his liking for slow bowlers.

Apart from hitting lusty blows, Hardik is expected to play a big part with the ball too in seam-friendly conditions. Karun Nair and Rishabh Pant are most likely to miss out.

India has a variety in their spin department as well. Ravichandran Ashwin, India’s premier off-spinner, hasn’t tasted much success on foreign land so he will have a point to prove too. Slow left-arm Ravindra Jadeja and Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav will also be available for selection. Considering England’s left-hand heavy top order, Ashwin might fancy a chance to start ahead of the two spinners.

India’s pace battery has a lot of depth too. With Jasprit Bumrah being available only after the first Test and Bhuvneshwar Kumar out with an injury, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav are likely to share the new ball.

If the pitch has a tinge of green on it, Kohli may also be tempted to play an extra pacer. Mohammed Shami and Shardul Thakur are his other options.

From the English dressing room:

England had a difficult time when Pakistan visited them back in June. Joe Root’s men will face an even tougher task when the number one ranked Test team hit the ground running at Edgbaston on August 1.

Seasoned campaigner and former skipper Alastair Cook has a new opening partner in Keaton Jennings. Joe Root holds the crucial number three position and the English skipper will be hoping to replicate his ODI form to Tests. The 30-year-old Dawid Malan will occupy the number four position.

Jos Buttler, England’s man-in-form, is expected to bat at number 5 while Ben Stokes, who returns to red ball cricket, is most likely to walk in into this English side. Jonny Bairstow will take the gloves for England and if these men don’t seem a bag full, the hosts also have Moeen Ali, who can contribute with the bat apart from his handy off-breaks.

Sam Curran, who played the last Test for England, may have to make way for Adil Rashid, who returns to red ball cricket on the back of a good ODI series.

England’s two best Test bowlers – James Anderson and Stuart Broad will be key to the team’s success, playing a big role with the Duke ball in hand.

Overall both teams look balanced but it’ll be a battle of wills over skills when they take the field in Edgbaston on August 1.