It’s a battle of two top fast bowling attacks as both teams mull over top-order combinations
It’s funny to think that a series of this magnitude – with these teams and these players – has flown under the radar over the last month. Relatively speaking.
India’s leadership has argued that the 1-4 scoreline on their 2018 tour was not an accurate reflection of how closely fought the series was, and upon that will rest their approach this time round. In the time since, this is a squad that has grown in depth and shown it can find ways to win overseas; they haven’t yet done it in swing-friendly conditions, however, and it’s a challenge that Virat Kohli said his team is craving.
England LDLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Anderson vs Kohli? Pant vs Buttler? And who will win the series?
England are almost certain to play four fast bowlers, and the batting talents of both Curran and Ollie Robinson mean they could be tempted to fit Jack Leach in there for a five-pronged attack.
England (possible): 1 Rory Burns, 2 Dom Sibley, 3 Zak Crawley, 4 Joe Root (capt.), 5 Ollie Pope, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Sam Curran, 8 Ollie Robinson, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Jack Leach, 11 James Anderson
Above all, India will be thinking most deeply about who slots in at No. 7. Ravindra Jadeja’s rise as a reliable batter in the format, alongside his runs during the warm-up games, would make him frontrunner for No. 7. It’s difficult to imagine that India would drop R Ashwin in this form, and so it’s the same quandary for India as they had during the WTC final; two spinners or one spinner and Shardul Thakur? The former beefs up a thin lower order, the latter keeps India’s frontline seamers fresher.
India (possible): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul/Abhimanyu Easwaran, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt.), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Pitch and conditions
It has been cloudy, but warm, in the lead up to the first Test. Temperatures are expected to hover in the high teens. The pitches in the square have been green but have shown signs of getting drier and changing colour.
Stats and trivia
“I think it’s a tricky one because there is a bit of grass on it but it’s definitely changed colour in the last few days, it’s starting to turn a bit brown as well. So I’m sure there will be a spinner in our 12 for tomorrow.”
James Anderson assesses the pitch
“I don’t really believe that some series matter more than the others, because then you’re really picking and choosing what you want to do. And that’s not being honest to the game in my opinion. So any match that you play for your country, and any series, is as important as any other series that you play around the world. And for us it’s wanting difficult cricket, wanting tough cricket. And wanting to win in conditions which are not ours.”
Virat Kohli says this series against England is no bigger or smaller than any other one
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo