|Thursday 25th January (Day 1), 04:00 UK Time, 09:30 IST
|Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad
|Expected to be dry throughout the test match, 0% chance of precipitation, average temperature around 27 degrees Celsius during the day.
|TNT Sports (UK), Sports18 & JioCinema (India)
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, KS Bharat, Dhruv Jurel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Avesh Khan
England: Ben Stokes (captain), Rehan Ahmed, James Anderson, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Shoaib Bashir, Dan Lawrence, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes, Tom Hartley, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Mark Wood.
The big news for team India is the late announcement that Virat Kohli will miss the first two tests due to personal reasons. He is set to return to the squad for the third test in Rajkot, Gujarat in 3 weeks’ time. His absence leaves a vacant spot at number four for the hosts, with a replacement yet to be confirmed by the BCCI. However, Cheteshwar Pujara – who recently notched up 20000 first class runs – is at the front of the conversation. Abhimanyu Easwaran, who has played for the India A team against England Lions, is also likely to be considered an option despite his poor form for India A. Other left field options include Sarfaraz Khan, who averages 68 in first class cricket, and RCB star Rajat Patidar.
England have big team news of their own with Harry Brook pulling out of the tour due to personal reasons. The ECB were quick to announce Dan Lawrence as Brook’s replacement. The Surrey batsman has been busy for Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League down in Australia, playing a role with the ball too. Perhaps, with spin expected to play a major part throughout the series, Lawrence’s four-wicket haul at the MCG was the tipping point for the team selectors!
England’s surprise package, Shoaib Bashir, is currently stuck in the UAE at the time of writing with paperwork issues. He may have to fly back in England in the meantime and should be considered doubtful for the first test.
A View on the Market
Player markets have been slow to appear for this match, in part no doubt due to the uncertainly over selection with Kohli and Brook missing out. However, Shubman Gill is of slight interest to us in the player fours market. In his last home test match against Australia, he scored an impressive 128 including 12 fours. This knock flew slightly under the radar due to a masterful Kohli 186 in the same innings. However, with Kohli missing in the first test, Gill should have slightly shorter odds than the 9.00 on offer for ‘Most Team 4s – 1st Innings’ offered across the board. These odds will be slightly inflated because of Kohli taking a large % of the market, so you may have to be quick off the mark with this one!
Joe Root is by far England’s best batsman in Indian conditions, and if pitches are to be prepared as expected (spinning from day 1), it could be tricky for the other English batsman to implement their recent positive approach to test match cricket here. Root averages a chunky 63.35 with the bat against India across all tests, and incidentally he is also just nine runs short of passing the great Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 2535 runs in India vs England test matches. Root will be aiming to take the record off Tendulkar in no less than six fewer test matches. He is available at a best price of 3.75 in the market for Top England 1st Innings Batsman. We suspect many firms will be looking to go up with a much shorter price, closer to 3.00.
From a neutral standpoint, it is difficult to see how England can successfully carry out their new Brendon McCullum inspired (‘Bazball’) style of cricket in India. The dry conditions in Hyderabad will be extremely foreign to many of the English batsmen, particularly when you consider that they will be up against a high-quality bowling attack, which should feature arguably the best spin duo of all time in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
India are currently 1.5 on the Exchange at the time of writing. If England bat first this will be their best chance of pushing that 1.5 closer towards even money, as they may be able to take advantage of the best batting conditions early in the match. Batting in the 4th innings on this Hyderabad pitch could prove to be an extremely tricky test, even for the home side. Hence it could be a good idea to back whichever team wins the toss (especially if it’s India!), if you are quick enough after the event.
Jack Leach returns to the test team which is a huge positive for England. Leach has recently received praise from former England great Graeme Swann, who believes that England would have won last year’s Ashes series had Leach been fit. Leach was moderately successful on his last tour of India, and he will be expected to lead the spin attack again alongside Rehan Ahmed, Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir. Joe Root is also certain to play a role with the ball in hand since India is statistically his favourite country to bowl in (barring Sri Lanka where he has only bowled in 3 matches). Here he averages 25.37 with the ball in test cricket, which should boost his confidence to take some of the workload off the frontline spinners.
The home team have a few names likely to be in the starting XI who will be looking to keep their name on the team sheet permanently, one of them being Yashasvi Jaiswal. Jaiswal struggled to score runs in the recent South Africa series, but unfortunately for India, this was the story for the whole team. However, Jaiswal’s 266 runs from three innings in the West Indies was an extremely impressive return, which included a 171 in his first-ever test match innings. He is likely to be alongside the skipper, Rohit Sharma, at the top of the Indian order. He would love nothing more than to hit the ground running in his first-ever home test series.
Cricket 8’s Expert Tips
Gill Most Team 4s – 1st Innings @ 9.00
Joe Root Top England Batsman – 1st Innings @ 3.75
Root 50+ 1st Innings @ 2.2