So let’s be honest when you looked at the fixture list for English cricket this summer one period stood out, the 5 test series against India which begins this coming Wednesday on August 1st, with the opening test at Edgbaston. Trips to Lords, Trent Bridge, The Ageas Bowl and finally The Oval in early September await the tourists. A cracking 6 weeks of leather on willow ahead, especially if the weather keeps behaving itself.
Whilst England are taking out all before them in the one day 50 over format, they have not been reaching anywhere near that standard at the long form game. Currently 5th ranked, in their last 16 tests (since they got thrashed 4-0 in India at the end 2016) they have won 6 (all at home) and lost 8, with 2 draws. They have a habit of either winning heavily of getting a hiding themselves. Their lack of application, especially with their batting is a major concern. Since their hammering in the Ashes and subsequent loss in New Zealand on their last winter tours they have shaken up the selction process with Ed Smith now in charge as National selector. His initial foray into the job in conjunction with Head Coach, Trevor Bayliss brought up and down performances against Pakistan earlier in the summer, where a heavy defeat in the first test was followed by a huge win in the second, so not necessarily as smooth a transition as had been hoped. Maybe the addition of James Taylor recently joining as a full time England selector will help. They will need it as India will form very tough opposition as the number one ranked team in the 5 day game.
THE NUMBER ONE RANKED TEST TEAM
India last visted England in the summer of 2014 and frankly after drawing the 1st test then winning the 2nd, collapsed, showing a fragile side whenever things went against them, losing the remaining three encounters with barely a whimper. They lost in Australia following this but that was the start of their fight back to the top of the test rankings as Virat Kohli took the reins and instilled a fight and solidarity moulded in his style. The pinnacle was their 4-0 thrashing of this summers opposition on their home turf, where the Indian captain was imperious and revelled in grinding the opposition into the dirt after his horror tour of England in 2014. They last won in England in 2007, winning a 3 match series 1-0, they have never won a 5 test series on English soil, history beckons and with that man Kohli in charge, nobody would be surprised if they achieve it.
One of the biggest issues for all touring teams nowadays is the preparation. India arrived in June and then embarked on separate 20/20 and 50 over one day series. Their only first class match before the opening test was a 3 day match against Essex which finished on Friday (27th July). I think we all agree not the best way to prepare for a huge series. A bigger issue is that some of India’s key batsmen struggled in that match especially Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara. Kohli managed some runs and looked fluent, but he had planned to get even more experience on English pitches by playing for Surrey prior to the series but a neck injury ruled this out. England is the only major test playing country he has toured, but has not made a century, something he is very much looking to rectify in the next few weeks. The ECB on the other hand shoehorned in a round of Championship cricket last week, where the majority of the likely test team played to give them some red ball cricket just before the series, home advantages an all.
GLORIOUS WEATHER (SO FAR) AND SERIES PREDICTIONS
As is well known, England has basked in a heatwave summer which has dried the pitches markedly, so spin might be key and let’s be honest with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja alongside new sensation in Kuldeep Yadav, who caused major issues for England in the one day series, the Indians are very strong in this department. Ed Smith has seen this himself and picked Adil Rashid, a man who does not even have a red ball contract for his county, and it seems that a wonder ball he bowled to Kohli ala Shane Warne to Mike Gatting in 1993 can bring out desperate measures. This is clearly the only justification for his selection as it stands, especially when you take into account there are spin bowlers in county cricket playing in the championship working hard to be selected. For me England have a huge advantage as India have not really had the prolonged build up to be at their best and firing come the beginning of the series. I see a strong start from the hosts, especially as their record at home is very good, Kohli’s men will fight back but will not be able to bridge the gap, plus I see the weather curtailing at least one test. 3-1 to the English for me.
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