England vs India: Six Things To Keep An Eye Out For
England vs India. The much anticipated Test series is nearly upon us.
Will England enjoy success after difficult Test assignments over the last nine months? Or will India achieve a fantastic series win in foreign conditions, and show us that no one is to snatch their number one Test ranking away from them?
Two questions that make for intriguing viewing.
However, what makes the series so highly anticipated are the battles within the war. This series is sure to provide us with great story lines throughout, and give us plenty to talk about, given the recent history between the two sides.
I believe that there are six key things to watch out for in this series. Whichever team better meets these points will be the winner, as there is no place to hide in a five match Test series.
1. James Anderson vs. Virat Kohli
There is no doubt that the winner of this battle goes a fair way in deciding the series result.
In India’s tour of England 2014, Virat Kohli scored 134 runs across five Tests, averaging a mere 13.40. He was dismissed four times by now number one Test bowler James Anderson.
Now, Virat Kohli has the chance to show us just how far he has come since then by taking on that same man, Anderson; a man who is never short of a word or two. The words have already begun, with James Anderson claiming Kohli is telling “lies” if he believes his runs are not that important.
2. What can India offer without Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah?
Two of India’s star performers in their tour of South Africa earlier this year will be missing from at least the first two Tests of the series.
These two were superb in India’s win at the Wanderers earlier this year, and Bhuvneshwar especially brilliant in the early stages of the 2014 series. Also, India struggled with the ball in the recent ODIs, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar looking underdone in the final match.
Can Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Hardik Pandya step up to the plate?
Ishant had a promising county stint with Essex, taking 15 wickets in four matches after being overlooked for IPL 2018. Mohammed Shami was the equal leading wicket taker in South Africa earlier this year. Umesh Yadav has shown promising form in white ball cricket, and Hardik Pandya remains a promising all-rounder option for India in Tests. These four simply must apply and maintain pressure on England’s batsmen.
3. Joe Root’s conversion rate – massive key for England
There is no doubt Joe Root belongs in the “big four” comprising also of Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson.
However, what puts him fourth on the list, in my opinion, is his conversion rate. Excluding his 58* in Sydney earlier this year where he retired ill, Joe Root has failed to convert any of his last nine 50+ scores into hundreds. His overall conversion rate of below 25% is not indicative of the fantastic player he is.
So, will this be the series where he turns starts into big scores?
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4. Cheteshwar Pujara
You might not have expected Pujara to be in this list, but if he has a series to remember, India are going to be so much better off for it.
I scratch my head as to how a player with excellent temperament and simple technique has struggled like he has outside of Asia. In away Tests (excluding Sri Lanka), Pujara averages just 27.31, and his disappointing county stint this year has only created more concern about the impact he will have in this series.
Like Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay, Pujara has the ability to hold the innings together. This is especially important with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah missing, as India will need more from their batsmen to be competitive in the series.
Will this be the series where Pujara sheds off the “subcontinent specialist” tag?
5. England’s opening partnership
Keaton Jennings was brought back into the side in England’s most recent Test against Pakistan. Can he lock down a position that England have struggled with since the retirement of Andrew Strauss?
To make matters a little more concerning is the form of Alastair Cook in Test cricket. Apart from two double centuries last year, Cook has been short of runs at the top for England.
However, he is coming off 180 for England Lions against India A, and he enjoys playing against India. He averages 50.09 against them in 25 Tests, and England will be hoping he and Jennings can provide a solid platform right throughout the series.
6. What role will spin play?
Conditions in England have been warm and dry in most parts, which could mean the spinners will have a say.
Does Kuldeep Yadav get a run for India over Ravichandran Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja? If conditions suit, he will still back himself to test the England batting line up with his superb variations. For England, does Dominic Bess make the cut? Against a line up very proficient against spin, he will have to be spot on with his lines and lengths.
In a series such as this, don’t discount the impact that spin could have.
So, there we have it. My six things to keep an eye out for in what should be an exciting Test series.
Can India stay in the fight for longer than they did in 2014, or will England claim a big scalp at home? Should be a very interesting watch.
Charbel Coorey, owner of CricBlog: https://cricketblog2.blogspot.com
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