Nottingham: It is going to be a Test series that will be followed keenly. Both England and India are hoping to dominate the other when the five-match series gets underway Wednesday. Both teams have their strengths and weaknesses. Here’s how they appear on paper.
Home conditions: England are playing at home and going by the past tours, they know how to exploit the change in weather and conditions and win crucial moments. Such familiarity came to good use when they won two close games against India in 2018 – the first Test in Birmingham by 31 runs and the fourth Test in Southampton by 60 runs.
Experienced new-ball attack: Pacers James Anderson and Stuart Broad have taken 1,140 Test wickets together. They were part of the last three home series against India. They rattled the Indian batsmen on multiple occasions. Anderson will resume his rivalry with Virat Kohli. Although England are playing them alternately in Test matches, it will be interesting to see if England play both of them against India.
All-round options: Although Ben Stokes has pulled out of the series, England have all-rounders like Sam Curran and Chris Woakes. They can provide balance to the side, chipping in with bat and ball on crucial occasions.
Fragile against spin: The England top-order came a cropper against Indian spinners during the away series in February-March. On pitches that aided turn, the England batsmen showed ineptness with their feet frozen. The pitches in England won’t support spin as much but they may carry mental scars from the series in India which they lost 1-3.
Missing Ben Stokes: He is a player, who has turned around matches for England with crucial wickets and innings. In the first Test on the 2018 tour, he got skipper Virat Kohli on 51 when he looked like taking India home. England mopped up the tail after Kohli and won the first Test by 31 runs to take advantage.
Spin attack: Compared to Indian spin trio R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel, the English spin duo Jack Leach and Dom Bess isn’t that acclaimed or experienced. Patel is the only one inexperienced spinner in the Indian attack. India can play two spinners in Jadeja and Ashwin, but not England.
Experience in England: India had toured England in 2018 and they have been in the country over two months. They have the played the World Test Championship final and a few intra-squad matches. They are better prepared this time than they were on each of the previous three tours.
Well-rounded bowling: India have multiple pace bowling options. The emergence of Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur has added to the riches. There is youth as well experience in the likes of Ishant Sharma who was the star of the Lord’s Test in 2014. Mohammed Shami too has toured England before. The spin attack is better than that of England.
Opening conundrum: Injuries have ruled out three players including opener Shubman Gill. His replacement Prithvi Shaw is yet to reach England. That leaves India with KL Rahul as the only option to open with Rohit Sharma. Hanuma Vihari is another player who can be tried at the top. However, the Indian team remain worried over the lack of opening options.
Middle-order muddle: The middle order comprising Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane will have to shoulder most of the responsibility due to the fragile opening batting. However, both Pujara and Rahane have been struggling for runs and that have has put a lot of pressure on Kohli.
Lack of seam bowling all-rounder: A seam bowling all-rounder is crucial in England if the team has to strike balance. England have multiple options even without Stokes. However, India are struggling on that count as they are missing Hardik Pandya. They may end up playing Shardul Thakur.
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