Spin the key as In­dia look to keep top spot

Re­jigged Eng­land squad gear up for five-Test series

7 Days in Dubai - - SPORT -

As a new-look Eng­land pre­pare to take on In­dia to­day in the first of five Test matches, there are a num­ber of bat­tles that could prove key to both side’s chances of suc­cess.

The tourists will have as many as nine changes to the side that last played a Test in In­dia, with 19-year-old Haseeb Hameed be­com­ing the youngest debu­tant to open for Eng­land.

In fact both teams have their fair share of rook­ies, which could make things par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing.

And while most of the at­ten­tion will be on how Eng­land cope against the spin of In­dia, there are some other match-ups that could prove to be ma­jor fac­tors in de­cid­ing the series.

Cook and Root vs In­dia’s spin­ners

Alas­tair Cook and Joe Root know a thing or two about ne­go­ti­at­ing spin bowl­ing and do have bet­ter bat­ting av­er­ages against the slow bowlers. But, In­dia’s spin­ners have been bru­tal of late, with Ravichan­dran Ash­win and Ravin­dra Jadeja tak­ing 95 wick­ets be­tween them since Oc­to­ber 2015.

The duo have in tan­dem ac­counted for most of the wick­ets in In­dia’s re­cent Test wins and their left-right com­bi­na­tion has left vis­it­ing bats­men with lit­tle to now an­swer. Ash­win, the No. 1 Test bowler, has 19 five-wicket hauls on the sub­con­ti­nent, with his 179 wick­ets com­ing at an av­er­age of 20.06.

Kohli vs Root: Bat­tle of the No. 3s

Vi­rat Kohli and Root have been noth­ing short of phe­nom­e­nal for their sides in re­cent years across all for­mats.

They have also re­cov­ered from lean patches just in time for this series.

Root has amassed 4,103 runs in 48 matches with 10 hun­dreds at an av­er­age of 55.06, while Kohli is just be­hind him ac­cu­mu­lat­ing 3,554 runs from 47 games with 13 tons at an av­er­age of 53.91.

Root might be three years younger and boast a bet­ter av­er­age than Kohli, but the fact that most of Root’s runs and tons have come at home, cou­pled with his re­cent medi­ocre run of form, leaves Eng­land with a few ques­tion marks.

Re­cent records

As well as these bat­tles, mo­men­tum could be­come a fac­tor. Eng­land’s re­cent re­sults have not been up to the mark.

They have lost two of their last five Tests, in­clud­ing los­ing to Bangladesh for the very first time, while In­dia have not lost in five and top the Test rank­ings.

The home side will be de­ter­mined not to lose their No. 1 Test rank­ings to Pak­istan and will hope to avenge their 2012 series de­feat to Eng­land.

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