“As they walk out for their 1000th Test, Joe Root and co have a chance to make their historic moment a memorable one. They have the personnel and conditions aligned in their favour but can they make it count against an aggressive Indian Test unit”?
As England prepare to face-off against India in their 1000th Test match, there are quite a few things that make them favorites to win the first Test at least. They have lost just 8 of the 50 Test matches they have played at Edgbaston, giving them a nearly impeccable record at the venue of the first Test.
Against India, they have a pretty good home record with 30 wins in 57 matches. What is even more notable is that they have lost a mere 6 Test matches to India at home. But this is a formidable Indian unit touring and the hosts are well aware of the challenges that await them. “They seem to have a good variety of bowlers – pace bowlers – which is probably unusual,” Alastair Cook had said at a media conference, two days before the first Test. “And strength and depth in their pace bowling. Certainly in the last 10 years, since I have played against them, they haven’t had the option of playing five or six different types of seamers. That strength and depth in their seamers is different to what I have experienced in the past, but we will see over the next six weeks.”
With India posing a major threat with the ball, the onus is on England’s batsmen to counter the same. They have picked a 13-man squad to face the visitors for the first Test from which the batting line-up is fairly straightforward.
The hosts have Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings at the top of the order with the latter out to establish himself at the top for England. The South African-born opener is in every way a solid opener and had proved as much on his Indian tour two years back. In conditions, more familiar, Jennings could prove to be a key player for England, particularly if he can get his county form going.
Alastair Cook and Joe Root, the two most experienced players in the batting group, both bat in the top 3. Dawid Malan is the incumbent at the number 4 spot but England could spring a surprise here. Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Johnny Bairstow complete the top 7.
If Buttler keeps, Bairstow might get a promotion to no.4 which could bring Moeen Ali into the picture. Moeen Ali could be the second spinner and all-rounder in the England side with Malan sitting out. While the southpaw has done little wrong, the hosts might benefit from having an additional tweaker with the hot English summer drying out a few pitches.
Adil Rashid is fairly certain to start after his controversial inclusion in the side but Ali has such a commendable record at home and against the Indians which makes him an enticing prospect. Add in his batting abilities and it would almost be foolish to bench the off-spinning all-rounder for the first Test.
If Ali plays, he could slot in at 5, acting as the bridge between Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and the top four. He is a pretty handy player of spin as well which augers well for batting at no.5 when the spinners are likely to be operating more.
Ali’s presence could also indirectly prompt England to play Bairstow at 4 which is where the wicket-keeper batsman should actually bat. With keeping duties, it was a tiresome task earlier, but now that they have Jos Buttler, England can afford to use Bairstow in a more commanding role at the top.
The bowling line-up is fairly straightforward unless England really want to add in a fourth seamer on a damp Edgbaston wicket. In this case, Rashid might be benched but the chances for this seem rather slim after his mind-blowing delivery to Kohli skewed England’s balanced thoughts.
Anderson and Broad pick themselves among fast bowlers and will likely be assisted by the swing bowling left-arm seamer, Sam Curran. Curran is a fine batting prospect too and would most likely come in at no.8.
The sheer amount of batting depth this England side has is mind-blowing. With Adil Rashid, Sam Curran and Stuart Broad at 8, 9 and 10 respectively, the English boast of one of the best tail in Test cricket at the moment. The onus on the seamers, though, is to rattle that Indian batting monument.
As they walk out for their 1000th Test, Joe Root and co have a chance to make their historic moment a memorable one. They have the personnel and conditions aligned in their favour but can they make it count against an aggressive Indian Test unit?
Best XI: Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Joe Root (c), Johnny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Curran, Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad, James Anderson