Spin the key as India look to keep top spot
Rejigged England squad gear up for five-Test series
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.
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.