At last the day has arrived. Crowds stream into Edgbaston, backpacks bulging with picnics, sun cream lavishly applied and a tingle of anticipation down the spine. For test match cricket is back! Finally, two months on from Buttler’s heroics at Headingley, proper cricket returns, with a polite hop, skip and jump. Not just any test series either. A colossal contest against the number one side in the world; Team India. A squad who want to be the best in all conditions.
I’ll Be Riding Shotgun
Back in 2014 India were despatched with ease by a settled England side. Talisman Virat Kohli appeared to have forgotten which end of the bat to hold. Averaging just 13 across the series, Kohli was a shadow of the player who held so much promise after the retirement of beloved Sachin. Replacing the ‘Little Master’ was as daunting a challenge as Chris Evans faced after Clarkson’s misdemeanour. Where Evans antagonised viewers and sidled out of sight though, Kohli has stepped up to the mantle and become the Ferrari for Team India.
Cemented at his favoured number 4 position, it’s the other passengers in the Indian top order who England must target. Shikhar Dhawan faced just four balls in his only warm up match against Essex; marching off to the sounds of schoolkids quacking. Cheteshwar Pujara has nightmares of a green top, after his dismal showing for Yorkshire earlier this season. Whilst Murali Vijay averages just 40 in over fifty tests. Should the new ball swing and seam , with all the whip lashing of a BDSM dominatrix, the top order may find themselves splayed out on the carpet, balls in hand and tears running down their cheeks. Apparently I have a ‘vivid imagination’… can’t see why.
Anderson and Broad are masters at their craft. Should the conditions become typically English, then the series will be extremely one sided. Yes, England have a habit of throwing away the odd test match, but their record on this blessed isles is exceptional. team India have only won 6 test matches, in 57 attempts. Something that will have Kohli nibbling nervously on his Kellogg’s.
Underneath The Hot Sun
Make hay while the sun shines. That expression could be what this series hinges upon. If the sun shines bright like a diamond and we have no need for our umbrella, then India will feel at home. The heatwave conditions of much of July, have contributed to dry pitches. As a result the sub continental style of batting will feature; batsman going big and bowlers toiling away in the scorching heat. Instead of the ball nipping for Jimmy, it’ll appear big for Kohli and co. With England’s fourth bowler being Sam Curran, don’t be surprised to see mammoth totals appear on the scoreboard.
Forget Death Valley. Imagine bowling in 35 degree heat to Virat Kohli. Now close your eyes and imagine you are Adil Rashid. Uh oh. A guy who, for a year has only bowled 10 over spells, may have to churn up 35 overs in a day. Of spin. Which the Indians are experts at playing. Throw in the visitors secret weapon of Kuldeep Yadav, who has mysterious variation and the England batsman will struggle.
Kuldeep embarrassed Bairstow and Root in the ODI’s. If he plays on turning wickets, England will have to show a level of patience, not seen since Peter Moores tried explaining to KP there were 10 other blokes in a cricket team. And look how that turned out. Toss in the third ranked bowler in test cricket, Ravindra Jadeja alongside Ravi Ashwin who takes his victims at 25.34 and England are screwed.
Feeling Like A Someone
Pretend for a moment that the heavens will open and God shall bless all with rain. Or groundsman will sprinkle tonnes of water on the Edgbaston surface. Nullifying the Indian spinners will thus have been taken care of. But what about their pace attack?
Ishant Sharma is nothing special anymore but newbies Kumar and Bumrah are a different kettle of fish. Cod they’re decent. Kumar reels in his prey at 26.08, whilst Bumrah simply electrocutes the lake at 25.21. Tuna down the radio when they bowl. They will have a whale of a time! Mohammed Shami is pretty nippy too. With a whopping five tests in just six weeks though, there is the whiffy possibility that Kumar and Bumrah may struggle with injuries. Taken out of the equation would mean a bowling attack of Sharma, Shami and probably Umesh Yadav; none of whom should frighten England. Root can mush them into submission.
Talking of Joe Root, there’s a bit of pressure on his granite shoulders. In just over a year of captaincy Joe has yet to firmly establish himself as a prominent leader. Series wins against South Africa and West Indies each featured a dropped test, whilst we have no need to stir the murky depths of what occurred Down Under. Even at Lord’s against Pakistan England were lacklustre. Losing that match within four days, the first time they’d lost at a test at the start of the summer, was a wakeup call. Beating Pakistan at Headingley was impressive but Team India offer a sterner challenge.
We Got Two In The Front, Two In The Back
Questions remain over MS Dhoni’s replacement, with Dinesh Karthik, Wriddhiman Saha and Parthiv Patel all fitting into the gloves over the past three years. None have stuck. A fallible wicket keeper batsman is only a problem though if the top order fails. With in form Ajinkya Rahane having the technical prowess of an Ian Bell and promising all-rounder Hardik Pandya ahead, India’s wickie is protected. And let’s not forget Ashwin and Jadeja both know how to swing a willow.
Searching for a weakness in this Indian side is thus difficult. Pundits are harping on about England’s home record but if it’s dry India will prevail. Even if we witness greenery, this side are much harder to crack than the travelling circus of four years ago. Ravi Shastri the coach has declared that, ‘India want to play well in all conditions.’ Although their preparation in English conditions has been poor; a three day ‘contest’ at Chelmsford the only showing, Kohli is on a mission to push his side into greatness.
Sailing Along And We Don’t Look Back
After matching South Africa this is the final frontier for Team India to cross. Where they are powerful and confident, England are fragmented and weak. Jennings and Malan still appear insecure. There must be a small question mark over the mind-set of Ben Stokes; with his Bristol brawler trial starting next week. Sam Curran has just one test to his name. Adil Rashid… well we know the issues with him.
England’s insecurities may negate the favourable conditions for them. For even if India find it tricky facing Jimmy and Broady, England are two seconds away from a seismic collapse. This series will be tightly fought and should be an absolute belter.
Particularly if you’re an Indian fan because right now, they are the team for all conditions.
I call shotgun on this prediction.