Pay­back time as In­dia seek Eng­land Test re­venge

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Top-ranked In­dia will look to set­tle old scores by un­leash­ing their spin­ners on a frag­ile-look­ing Eng­land when the first Test of a five-match se­ries be­gins in Ra­jkot to­mor­row. Eng­land were the last team to win a Test se­ries on In­dian soil when they came from be­hind to tri­umph 2-1 in 2012, but In­dia are cur­rently en­joy­ing an im­pres­sive run. Tal­is­manic captain Vi­rat Kohli has scored two Test dou­ble cen­turies this year and has led his side to four se­ries wins in a row af­ter tak­ing over the cap­taincy in 2015.

Re­cent vic­to­ries, in­clud­ing a white­wash of New Zealand, have not only dimmed mem­o­ries of three con­sec­u­tive Test se­ries de­feat to Eng­land-in 2011, 2012 and 2014 — but also whet­ted In­dia’s ap­petite for re­venge. Their prospects have been boosted by the re­cent sparkling form of Ravichan­dran Ash­win, who be­came the sec­ond quick­est bowler to reach 200 wick­ets dur­ing In­dia’s 3-0 de­mo­li­tion of the Black Caps. The off-spin­ner will look to ex­ploit an Eng­land bat­ting line-up that strug­gled on slow and low pitches dur­ing their re­cent tour of Bangladesh which saw them lose a Test to the min­nows for the first time. “Ash­win is a good bowler. He uses his vari­a­tions very well, es­pe­cially the way he ap­proaches the crease. He’s al­ways look­ing to at­tack­ing and out­fox a bats­man,” for­mer Eng­land star Kevin Pi­etersen told The Crick­eter magazine.

Alas­tair Cook’s men, fourth in the world rank­ings, were cut down to size by teenage Bangladeshi spin­ner Me­hedi Hasan who bagged 19 wick­ets from the two games last month.

CON­FI­DENT COOK

The sec­ond Test up­set also re­minded Eng­land of short­com­ings in their own spin­ning depart­ment but Cook said he was con­fi­dent that Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and rookie Za­far An­sari would de­liver, de­spite just hav­ing 105 wick­ets be­tween them.

Eng­land have also brought back 39year-old Gareth Batty while Pak­istan great Saqlain Mush­taq is there to men­tor the spin­ners as they con­front a for­mi­da­ble In­dian bat­ting line-up. Mush­taq is likely to have a calm­ing ef­fect in a dress­ing room, and Cook be­lieves his side will bounce back from the Bangladesh de­feat and should never be writ­ten off. “Ev­ery time this side has been ques­tioned we’ve al­ways found a way of im­prov­ing and I ex­pect that.

“It’s ex­cit­ing be­cause we are quite heavy un­der­dogs and that is some­times a very good place to be,” he told re­porters in Mum­bai on Satur­day.

Eng­land’s mid­dle-or­der also looks shaky how­ever with Gary Bal­lance av­er­ag­ing just 18 in his last eight in­nings. Their pace depart­ment will also suf­fer from the ab­sence of Jimmy An­der­son, Eng­land’s all-time lead­ing wicket-taker with 463 scalps, who has re­cov­ered from a shoul­der in­jury but not in time for the first Test.

IN­DIA CON­CERNS

In­dia have some nag­ging con­cerns at the top of the bat­ting or­der. De­spite try­ing out five dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions in their last 14 Tests, In­dia have failed to post a cen­tury open­ing part­ner­ship.

With in­jured open­ers Shikhar Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul ruled out of the first two Tests, se­lec­tors are scur­ry­ing for new com­bi­na­tions. Coach Anil Kum­ble said In­dia would not be weighed down by mem­o­ries of their last en­coun­ters with Eng­land, in­sist­ing re­cent form was more im­por­tant.

“Yes, some play­ers played in the last se­ries but for us ... im­me­di­ate per­for­mance mat­ters. That’s the con­fi­dence we would like to take into the se­ries,” Kum­ble said in Ra­jkot Sun­day.

Adding spice to the se­ries is the de­ci­sion re­view sys­tem (DRS) which In­dia have agreed to use for the first time on a trial ba­sis af­ter re­sist­ing it for so long. The Ra­jkot match will be fol­lowed by Tests in Visakha­p­at­nam, Mo­hali, Mum­bai and Chen­nai.

In­dia (from): Vi­rat Kohli (capt), Mu­rali Vi­jay, Gau­tam Gamb­hir, Chetesh­war Pu­jara, Ajinkya Ra­hane, Wrid­dhi­man Saha (wick­et­keeper), Hardik Pandya, Karun Nair, Ravichan­dran Ash­win, Amit Mishra, Ravin­dra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mo­hammed Shami, Umesh Ya­dav, Jayant Ya­dav Eng­land (from): Alas­tair Cook (capt), Moeen Ali, Za­far An­sari, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Bal­lance, Gareth Batty, Stu­art Broad, Jos But­tler, Ben Duck­ett, Steven Finn, Haseeb Hameed, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes.

ñ AFP

DHAKA: This file photo taken on Oc­to­ber 30, 2016 shows Eng­land’s captain Alas­tair Cook play­ing a shot dur­ing the third day of the sec­ond Test match be­tween Bangladesh and Eng­land at the Sher-e-Bangla Na­tional Cricket Sta­dium in Dhaka. As In­dia be­gin their five-match Test se­ries against Eng­land this week.

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