England vs India 1st Test Preview: Revenge in the air as injury-stricken India meet Stokes-less England
Both teams have light batting line-ups and impressive bowling attacks. The batting unit touching 300 more often will win the series, as simple as that.
LIVE SCORES - England vs India 1st Test
The revenge series
When England toured India for a 4-match Test series earlier this year, any grass they saw was on the outfield and not on the pitch, with the surfaces turning square apart from the first Test in Chennai. England were barely able to reach 200 in the last three Test matches and suffered a 1-3 defeat, with matches getting over within 2-3 days.
This is now England's opportunity to return the favour, and this time, the pitches are expected to bear the look of pastures. The overhead conditions will also aid the England seamers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad in particular, to make the ball talk. It will be a real challenge for the batting line-ups of both the teams to touch 300 on a consistent basis.
Pitch and weather
Although there appeared to be quite a lot of grass on the Trent Bridge pitch in the first pictures that came out, the soil still looks brownish, partly due to the heatwave in England over the last few days and it will come as a surprise if the pitch does not turn, at least on the last couple of days.
As a result, both teams will have one specialist spinner in their playing XI.
The weather is set to be fair for the opening day of the Test match but there are chances of rain on all the last 4 days, and unlike the final of the World Test Championship, there will be no reserve day this time around.
Both England and India have some key players unavailable. England are without Ben Stokes who has decided to take an indefinite break from cricket to focus on his mental health and allow his injured finger to heal. Jofra Archer is coming back from an elbow surgery and is unlikely to take part in this Test series.
India, on the other hand, were already light after having lost the services of Shubman Gill, Avesh Khan and Washington Sundar. Mayank Agrawal was expected to open the batting alongside Rohit Sharma but showed signs of concussion after being hit on the head in practice off a Mohammad Siraj bouncer and has been ruled out. KL Rahul is most likely to take his place.
There was some thought about Hanuma Vihari, who has a fine technique and temperament, to be used as a makeshift opener - a role he played well in Australia. But, KL Rahul, given his recent form and experience of opening the batting both in red ball and white ball cricket, is expected to get the nod.
Cheteshwar Pujara will retain his place at number 3, with Virat Kohli at 4. Ajinkya Rahane has been cleared to play after a hamstring niggle. Rishabh Pant will bat at number 6.
Can Thakur pip Ishant?
India are most likely to drop their two spinner strategy after what happened in the World Test Championship final.
Although the scales are tilted in favour of India going in with four pace bowling options - Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Siraj and Ishant Sharma - there is a possibility of Shardul Thakur playing ahead of Ishant to provide some batting at number 8. Ravichandran Ashwin is in the form of his life and will be India's only spinner.
Curran and Robinson to cover for Stokes
England's balance has also been disturbed by the unavailability of Ben Stokes. They will have to play both Sam Curran and Ollie Robinson to cover for Stokes' batting and bowling.
The Player of the Series on India's last Test tour of England, which the visitors lost 1-4, Sam Curran is a much improved cricketer over the last couple of years and will be a crucial player in the series.
Ollie Pope has recovered from his thigh injury and will bat at number 5, followed by Jos Buttler. Both Stuart Broad and James Anderson are set to play along with England's primary spin option Jack Leach. This doesn't leave any place for tearaway Mark Wood.
Pro tip: The team which bats better, will win the match, and the series.
Predicted playing XIs:
England - Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Root (c), Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Curran, Ollie Robinson, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach
India - Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma/Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Siraj
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