India vs England Second Test: Visitors Preview

After an extremely encouraging performance in Rajkot, England now look to continue their momentum in Visakhapatnam for the second Test against India, starting on Thursday.

Alastair Cook‘s men surprised many during that first Test. Given the thrashings that India have handed out at home in recent series, combined with England’s demoralising collapse in Dhaka, the pressure seemed to be all on England.

However, in Rajkot, it was quite the opposite. Thanks to scintillating hundreds from Joe Root, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes, England posted a large first-innings total of 537. On a flat pitch, key batsmen cashed in, underlining the importance of winning a toss in the subcontinent.

The performance with the bat represented a change a welcome start to the series – something that England have not done enough of recently. In their last three Test series, England have failed to reach 350 in the first innings of the first Test (303 vs South Africa, 298 vs Sri Lanka and 272 vs Pakistan). Therefore, it was imperative that the visitors batted themselves into safety and lay a marker down for the rest of the series.

Debutant Haseeb Hameed, despite not making one of the four centuries made by England in the match, looked particularly at ease. His compact technique, combined with his impressive temperament, were key factors in him enjoying such an impressive start to his career. The role Hameed plays, along with Cook, in getting England off to more solid starts will be paramount.

While the collective batting effort was a massive part of England’s positive start to the series, the bowling was equally encouraging. True, India made 488 in their first-innings, but the way in which the seam bowlers dried up the runs, as well as the pressure applied by the spinners would have given Cook and his side enormous room for encouragement.

In particular, the emergence of Adil Rashid was a massive plus. The leg-spinner, after a poor tour of Bangladesh, finally showed the consistency to match his myriad of variations to trouble the Indian batsman. The 28-year-old picked up seven wickets – the most in the match – and in the process proved himself as a man that captain Cook can now rely on going forward.

A slight concern for England going into the Visakhapatnam Test will be Ben Duckett. His first-innings dismissal for 13 against Ravichandran Ashwin highlighted a potential technical weakness. Duckett’s method having his front foot outside the line of leg-stump not only exposed his stumps but also reduced his scoring areas as he had to reach further for wider balls outside off-stump. This was also the case in Bangladesh, especially when facing off-spinner Mehedi Hasan.

The Northants man’s tremendous hitting ability could turn out to be a huge asset in this side, with quick runs vital to putting the opposition under pressure, as was the case with Ben Stokes’ hundred in Rajkot. Yet Duckett will face a stern examination once again and with calls for Jos Buttler to be recalled, the 22-year-old needs runs, and fast.

Thursday’s second Test will be the first ever at Visakhapatnam and England are likely to face a more frequently turning pitch than Rajkot. Therefore, the trial by spin will hold fresh challenges. It’s now up to this England side to built on the momentum from the drawn first Test and make their efforts count with a win.

In terms of team news, James Anderson, who is making good progress in his recovery from a shoulder injury, may not be risked at Visakhapatnam. In addition, Zafar Ansari‘s ability to turn the ball away from India’s right-handed top-order means he should fend off competition from Gareth Batty for the third spinners spot and retain his place. Therefore, it is likely that England will stick with the same side that performed so admirably in Rajkot.

Key Players 

Joe Root 

Root’s hundred in Rajkot was a masterclass. The Yorkshire man applied positive strokeplay with impressive tempo to lay the perfect platform, along with Moeen Ali, for England’s first-innings total of 537. In order to win in India, big runs are vital. And while Alastair Cook boasts impressive mental fortitude and the ability to bat for long periods of time, Root’s positive yet solid strokeplay will be the basis for England’s batting success this winter.

The way in which the 25-year-old played Ashwin, particularly with several pleasant cover drives against the spin, underlined his class. Big players stand out in big series and England need Root to have a successful time at number three to stand any chance of conquering India. And with a more turning pitch at Visakhapatnam, England will look to Root to lead the way once again.

Moeen Ali

England’s new number five turned in a supreme display in the first Test. Coming in at a potentially tricky situation at 102-3, Moeen provided excellent support for Root in a 179-run stand that put England into a commanding position. The equanimity and ease with which the Worcestershire man played offer great encouragement going into the rest of the series. It seems the move up the order has reignited Moeen’s ravenous appetite for runs and England will want him to continue his good form in this Test.

Moeen also has a big role to play with the ball. He went at under three an over in Rajkot and while the 29-year-old only picked up three wickets in the match, the control that he offered was crucial in tying down the Indian batsmen. The extra turn on offer at Visakhapatnam means that Moeen’s ever-increasing influence with the ball could be vital in his side’s chances of going one-up in the series.

Likely XI:

  1. Alastair Cook (c)
  2. Haseeb Hameed
  3. Joe Root
  4. Ben Duckett
  5. Moeen Ali
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. Jonny Bairstow (wk)
  8. Chris Woakes
  9. Adil Rashid
  10. Zafar Ansari
  11. Stuart Broad