England have surpassed all expectations to win the first Test of the Paytm Test series in Chennai, with Joe Root’s squad registering their sixth consecutive win away from home. The action will continue at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Saturday, when India will look to avenge their 227-run defeat like they have done against Australia in the recently concluded series.
ENGLAND HAVE THE MOMENTUM
England entered the series as underdogs, with India’s recent form, a strong team and home-advantage all tipping the scales against the Englishmen. But Joe Root’s men have mastered the art of playing on Asian tracks – they have swept the recent Test series in Sri Lanka, and have shown their class in the first Test.
Leading the charge was skipper Joe Root himself with an astonishing form – the England captain has made two double hundreds and a 186 in three Tests in 2021, the 98th, 99th and 100th of his career. Although the rest of the squad is not performing up to his standard, their contributions around Joe Root’s innings have enabled England to put on massive scores in the past few Tests. Jos Buttler’s presence in the team will be missed for the next three Tests, with Ben Foakes set to take his place as wicketkeeper-batsman.
James Anderson has proved time and again that he is the GOAT of English bowling attack, but if anyone had any doubts left, they were demolished in the first Test. On a surface which offered little help to the bowlers, with a ball that Indian bowlers themselves termed ‘bizarre’, Anderson delivered a spectacular second innings spell to seal England’s win. He will be joined by Stuart Broad in the second Test in the place of Jofra Archer, who is out with an injury. If India get to bat in the first innings, there might be increased workload for Ben Stokes, who bowled just 10 overs in the first Test. While England’s spinners have struggled in the first Test on the flat track, a more spin-friendly pitch might allow Moeen Ali a place in the team.
CAN INDIA AVENGE THEIR DEFEAT?
India’s loss in the first Test only the second time they have lost at home in the last six years. Their surprise loss to England, that too in a massive fashion, has raised many questions. While various explanations have been proposed, from the quality of the ball to pure luck and the toss, it is clear that Virat Kohli’s men have to step up their game.
Virat Kohli has missed the last three Tests in Australia, and his return to form as evidenced by his second innings knock is sure to give Indians hope. At the top, Rohit Sharma continues with his poor form, and if he doesn’t score runs, we might see a return of KL Rahul to open alongside the explosive Shubman Gill. Ajinkya Rahane has been praised for his captaincy in Australia, but his lack of consistency is a cause for worry. Rishabh Pant, with his aggressive batting skills and steadily improving his wicket-keeping abilities, has more or less secured his place in the team.
India’s seamers found little help from the flat deck in the first Test, but Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma will most likely retain their spot in the playing-XI. While Ravichandran Ashwin has performed as is expected of the maestro, the performance of the other two spinners left much to be desired. Axar Patel is likely to make his Test debut in the place of Shahbaz Nadeem, while Kuldeep Yadav might replace Washington Sundar if the pitch turns out to be spin-friendly. Sundar’s performance with the bat, however, might tip the scales in his favour.
TEST CHAMPIONSHIP ON THE LINE
India started the series as overwhelming favourites, but a classy England squad have brought them back down to the ground. With a spot in the World Test Championship now depending on each of the next three Tests, this series has become all the more interesting. New Zealand have already qualified for the WTC final, winning 70.0% of their matches. A 3-1, 3-0 or 4-0 series result in England’ favour might earn them a spot in the final, but this is still unlikely given the heavy odds against them.
India have slipped to the fourth position with 68.3 percentage points, and will now be looking to win at least two of the remaining three matches to secure a 2-1 or 3-1 result and a place in the final. If India lose another Test, or England manage to level two or more games, it will be Australia who will enter the Final.
Despite their defeat in the first Test, given their home record, India will again start as favourites. It will be another exciting match, with both teams fighting for a spot in the Championship final. India are expected to level the series 1-1, and will avenge their defeat in the first Test.
Pitch Report: The performance of the first Test’s pitch was less than satisfactory, with Ishant Sharma terming the surface a ‘road’. The task is cut out for the rookie curator of Chepauk, V Ramesh Kumar, to provide a pitch where the toss doesn’t determine the outcome. India will be hoping for a more spin-friendly track, which they are likely to get this weekend.
India Predicted XI: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma.
England Predicted XI: Dominic Sibley, Rory Burns, Joe Root (C), Ben Stokes, Daniel Lawrence, Ben Foakes (WK), Ollie Pope, Dom Bess, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
When: February 13 – 17, 2021 (Saturday to Wednesday) 09:30 AM (IST)
Where: MA Chidambaram Stadium(Chepauk), Chennai.
Where to Watch: All matches of the series will be telecast live on Star Sports Network and Disney+ Hotstar.
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