England India series preview and my Xi for the first test:
Well what a series we have on our hands. With confirmation yesterday that Channel 4 (and in turn Mambo Number 5!) will be returning to our screens to give us more live cricket, nearly everyone in the cricketing community got very very excited and rightfully so. For the first time since ‘05 test match cricket will be free to air for anyone and everyone in the UK!
So what about the cricket itself? India are a freak of a side at home who only have one selection issue of how to replace Jadeja who will be a huge loss to them. Their top 5 almost choose itself and have absolutely ridiculous numbers. Most of all India does not lose at home, they just don’t. Since England's series win in 2012 they have lost one test match vs Australia in 2017. Guys re read that sit down for an hour with a cup of tea and just process that. One test match. ONE!
India's lineup will be incredibly strong no matter how they build it, whether it’s Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur or Kuldeep Yadav (or one other of the world class spinners or pacers they have at their disposal) who come in for the injured Jadeja they will be supremely powerful and will only grow throughout the series with Shami and Yadav coming back into the side after the first 2 tests. Even without 2 of their first choice seamers, Siraj, Bumrah and Ishant is a very powerful and relentless pace attack that could really do some damage to England's top 7. Of course the main man and the true difference between the 2 sides will be Ashwin, it just has to be because he’s, arguably, the best office of the past decade.
The tracks that are prepared will be very interesting to see. The groundsman of Chennai has openly claimed that he will try and prepare a true cricket wicket with something in it for everyone. Whilst one may believe this is the wrong way to go about it i personally see no shocks. If they made a flat deck they would be relying on themselves to out bat England and whilst i believe India have the superior batting lineup i do also believe that this England lineup is made of tougher stuff and on flat decks would give India a better run than most like to believe. If the pitches are bunsens then India bring England's lesser quality spinners into the game and risk losing the toss and batting 4th. So a wicket where hard work and graft reaps rewards not only nullifies a lot of Englands spin threat but plays to the advantage of Indias own side with their bowlers showing a metronomic degree to their bowling in all facets.
Wha about the English side of things? Well for starters England can lose 4-0 and still have victories throughout the series. Cast your mind back to 2016 and we’ll all remember England being turned over and never quite having a settled batting lineup and or truly competing. But this time round the England batting lineup is looking very very strong with Stokes and Root looking to finally hit their peak forms at the same time as each other. If England can continue in the same vein of racking up big runs and keeping their bowling tight and patient i will take that as a victory. If Lawrence, Pope, Sibley, Burns, Bess and Foakes (and Crawley after the first 2 tests) can develop as all around test match cricketers to a good degree i will take that as a victory. This series is a great chance for England no matter how you look at it. If they get tonked 4-0 so what? It’s a young squad a large amount of whom are on their first tour to India, if England compete and lose well there’s a lot of positives to take and if England win a test well then that’s almost as good as a series win.
The English attitude towards this series are clear and obvious. They are using it as an opportunity to rest and rotate and get a closer look at the likes of Lawrence and Foakes. I can’t blame them and i can’t blame Root. We all know everything the side is doing is preparing for the series Down Under and they are quite open about it especially Root who is seemingly on a one man mission to win in Australia (i heard he ordered Marnus a sandwich toaster to start some discontent inside the dressing room).
So my series scoreline and my Xi for the first test? Well I do believe England will win a test match for a multititude of reasons. One the law of averages mean India have to lose one soon and as Phil Walker said on the Wisden Cricket Weekly podcast England have far too many match winners in their side to lose a game. In a similar vein to this i do feel that the one area England have improved under Root and Silverwood is as a whole side recognising the pressure moments where they have a chance to seal a test match and they are getting better at, in those moments, squeezing their opponent and winning those moments. So my score prediction is 3-1 to India with England taking the day night game or the 4th test.
As for my Xi, well it was dealt a blow this morning as Zak Crawley was caught and bowled by a marble floor and left out of the first 2 tests which as the CEO of the Zak Crawley fan club hurt me deeply. But the addition of Ollie Pope into the side makes things a lot easier. This side if predicated on the idea that Ben Stokes is fit enough to act as a 3rd choice seamer and i fully expect him to be fit enough.
Jos Buttler (wk)
Sthe side is rather uncontentious but i can see a few questions arising. Lawrence is at 3 purely as he has played test cricket more recently than Pope. Archer slots straight in at number 9 and this will be a crucial series for his development as a cricketer and learning to bowl on wickets that maybe don’t offer as much to the seamers (i have no doubts he will do this very very well) and Broad because Anderson played the last game.
So there we have it my series prediction and my Xi for the first test! What do you think? Do you agree? Let me know on my Twitter @therunoutblog1