India Underwhelm In Tour Match Against Essex
India’s batsmen struggled in their Tour Match against Essex, prior to their five match Test series against England. Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara failed twice and have left the composition of India’s top order uncertain. To add to India’s woes, their fast bowling unit were unable to blow away an under-strength Essex side. Mohammed Shami and Hardik Pandya were ineffective with the ball, while Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma were the only seamers who stood out.
India’s Top Order Uncertain
It is hard to remember a recent series where there has been so much uncertainty surrounding India’s batting unit. Murali Vijay is certain to open, but it may be the case that Shikhar Dhawan is dropped from the opening slot. Lokesh Rahul has been in sublime form in white ball cricket and has a healthy average of 40.86 in 24 Test matches. With scores of 58 and 36*, Rahul could be a strong contender to open the batting for India.
Alternatively, Dhawan could retain an opening spot in this side at the expense of Cheteshwar Pujara. India’s regular number three has had a terrible red ball season with Yorkshire in the County Championship and failed to get past 25 in two innings against Essex. If India opt for Dhawan ahead of Pujara, then Rahul could occupy the number three slot instead.
Two spots that will certainly not change from India’s batting line-up are captain Virat Kohli batting at four and Ajinkya Rahane batting at five. Rahane is an overseas specialist and is the only Indian batsman to average more away than at home. He scored a memorable hundred at Lord’s in 2014 and will be vital to India’s chances.
Karthik Continues To Impress
Dinesh Karthik has had an incredible year so far. He earned an India recall and instantly found glory by winning the Nidahas Trophy by hitting a six off the final ball. Karthik was also prolific in the IPL. Now, with Wriddhiman Saha (India’s number one Test keeper) out injured, Karthik is set to keep for India. He continued his fine form with the bat, hitting 82 (95) against Essex and top scored for the tourists. His prolific form will be a huge boost to India heading into the first Test at Edgbaston on August 1st.
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Contrasting Fates For The Seamers
It was a hit and miss match for India’s seamers. Essex ultimately made 359/8 declared and the pitch at Chelmsford was very green, especially given the recent weather in England. Mohammed Shami and Hardik Pandya really struggled. Neither of them managed to take a wicket and were relatively expensive; Pandya’s economy was a woeful 4.50 after bowling 12 overs.
On the other hand, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma always looked threatening. Yadav has reinvigorated his bowling and has cemented his spot as an Indian mainstay, rather than the fringe Test bowler he used to be. He ran through Essex’s top order and he took 4-35 in 18 overs, bowling an impressive eight maidens. Sharma seems to have been greatly benefited by his County Championship stint in England, taking 3-59 in 19 overs. These two seamers were India’s most economical bowlers. They are set to spearhead India’s fast bowling attack at Edgbaston, with Umesh likely to take the new ball.
Spin Scarcely Used
One of the major talking points heading into the first Test was to do with the weather and pitch conditions. The unusually hot summer has meant that the conditions are more suited to the subcontinental side than the English one. However, as we saw in Essex, this may not actually be the case. Amidst an outfield of dry, brown grass, the wicket was bright green and lively. As a result, India’s spinners were scarcely used.
All five of India’s seam options, including Shardul Thakur, were used before India first turned to spin. India bowled a total of 94 overs, yet only 11 of them were spin. Ravindra Jadeja was the first spinner used and he bowled two expensive overs. Kuldeep’s four overs were equally barren, leaking six an over. Surprisingly, Ravichandran Ashwin was India’s most economical spinner but he was also unable to make a breakthrough.
It will be interesting to see how the pitch at Edgbaston plays and India will need to carefully select the spinners they use once they see wicket. If the pitch looks green, India may opt for Jadeja as he is arguably the best batsman out of the three. Also, he is economical in all conditions and can build and sustain pressure from one end.