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Cricwizz takes a dive into the upcoming Pataudi Trophy between India and England that will kick off the new World Test Championship (WTC) cycle, which is scheduled to be played from the 4th of August, 2021, and will conclude with the Kiwis taking on Pakistan in November 2022. 

India vs England series is clouded by the shadow of the recently culminated WTC final. It was supposed to serve as a calm after the fiery storm. Well, it was “supposed to.” Like it always has, the ICC managed to pull another trick on us, stating the series would commence the second cycle, meaning the relevance of the series has now increased tenfold. 

Both teams, who have been amongst the most clinical Test sides in the last few years, now have enough incentive to get cracking on the series so that they can kick-start their campaign with a significant boost. 

Head to Head

Matches Played: 126, England: 48, India: 29, Draw: 49

✪ The last time these two sides faced each other, India emerged victorious courtesy of some spin magic led by the debutant Axar Patel.

Pitch and Weather

There is no doubt that these 2 variables will play a gargantuan role given how they have literally defined cricket in England. 

The pitches where the matches will occur (barring Lord’s), generally, have shown best batting conditions in the early part of the game but as the game progresses, the spinners gain more leverage with the footmarks, especially in the 3rd and 4th innings

Should they choose to bat or bowl first?

However, there is a key factor among these schemes that neutralizes this analysis: the good old dirty English weather. All depending on the weather on the morning of the first day, captains might elect to bowl first if it is gloomy so that the fast bowlers can have a go at the batsman with the overcast conditions aiding their exploits. The likelihood of this? It’s the English weather. Do you really expect us to give you predictions?

Another thing to note is that the pitches are likely to play differently this time. For the reasoning, we will have to rewind back to England’s torrid time they had in India earlier this year. Not only were they socked on the jaw in all 3 formats (albeit less painfully so in the shorter formats), a sickness issue plagued the camp, further exacerbating the physical and mental fatigue the bio bubble had already caused. 

The real problem though, points to the dust bowls India served up for the game which the English tabloids had a field day criticizing. The English batsmen looked clueless against the alien subcontinental conditions they had been tasked to conquer. 

Will England seek redemption?

It was honestly a case of handing a taser charge to a person and then asking them to capture a rampaging T-Rex on the loose. The result: a comprehensive 3-1 beatdown with mammoth margins of defeat. Therefore, as a means of revenge, it can be expected of England to prepare green tops and unleash their fast bowlers on India.

GAME PLAN

Due to the rapidly deteriorating pitches in the 3rd and 4th innings, first-innings runs and gaining a sizable lead are of paramount importance. 

Average graph Eng vs Ind India
Average first innings Difference

The above graph showcases the first innings difference in the last 4 Indian tours of England from an Indian perspective. The correlation between the series results and the first innings difference is clear. 

In 2007, the Indians had an edge of over 150 runs and ended up winning their first series in England after 22 years. In stark contrast, they were soiled in the 2011 and 2014 series, losing 0-4 and 1-3 respectively, as the first difference plummeted deeply into the negative side.

The 2018 series had an appreciable increase as India whittled down the margin to -30. Though the scoreline read 1-4, it does not entail how hotly contested the series was with the majority of the games going down to the wire. It was only the key moments which India failed to grab which made them incur a heavy loss on the scoreline. This only reinforces the already standing belief: bat hard when batting first. 

Pujara India
 With his position under scrutiny, Pujara will be looking to ramp up his slackening form (Image source: Indian Express)

A notable issue in the last England tour for India was how bleak their batting looked. With the exception of Kohli, the batting was toothless against the moving Duke balls, a trait that has been a long-lasting issue for the Indian batsmen. 

Will the Indian tail step up?

Given that the Indian tail does not wag for long, the onus on the top 6 will be even higher if they want to get those invaluable first-innings runs on the board. Pujara, in particular, averages 29 and only has a single century to his name in English conditions. 

This record isn’t a real testament to how good of a player he actually is and definitely, he will be hungry for those runs. If Pujara can commit to a blockathon and Kohli replicates his 2018 form while other batsmen provide ample support, this team can really dominate the series and stamp their authority in the new WTC cycle.

Though the bowlers have been absolutely exceptional the last 2 years, they should avoid repeating the mistakes they made in the WTC final and stick to the fundamentals in English conditions: move on from the subcontinental back of a length, pitch it up and make complete use of the lucrative swing and seam there is on offer. 

Bumrah and the Indian spinners will once again be in the limelight

More significantly, they will remember the haunting experiences they had against the tail-enders last time around. For all completed innings, the last 4 wickets of the English batting averaged an astonishing 100 as Sam Curran deposited the bowlers to the cleaners. The pacers, in particular, need to be clever if they want to bundle out the tail hastily. 

Jasprit Bumrah can put his T20 expertise to good use by utilizing various variations such as the cutter, his famed yorkers, and slower yorkers and maybe even slip in a bouncer in between to keep the batsman on his toes. 

The spinners won’t have a role as important as the pacers but their stocks will definitely take a quantum leap as the footmarks later on in the game open up the pitch. Consequently, Ashwin and Jadeja are going to be incredibly indispensable assets in the last few days, where the match can take any wicked twists and turns. 

How important will be the role of Mohammad Siraj and Shardul Thakur?

Since the 5 match series is likely to take a significant toll on the players, it can provide India a good opportunity to flex their world-beating bench strength. Mohammad Siraj has already proven to be a sensational match-winner and his genuine swing bowling caliber can be a handful on the English surfaces. 

Moreover, he could make a good cover for Bumrah or Shami given that both will be participating in the upcoming second IPL leg in addition to the T20 World Cup right after that and would want to be in top shape. 

Also, it won’t be a bad idea to try out Shardul Thakur as an all-rounder in the team as he has already shown an affinity for pressure situations and could make a potential replacement for Hardik Pandya, whose injuries have left a big question mark on his future participation in Tests. 

Even with Gill’s recent injury ruling him out of the Test series, India still has a plethora of options at hand with Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Hanuman Vihari, and Prithvi Shaw (tentative) ready to slot in for him and score the tough runs. 

Agarwal might just get the green signal with his form in Tests notwithstanding as Rahul last played an international Test match 3 years prior and Vihari has not fully experienced the adrenaline rush of an opener at the international level. 

KEY BATTLES

With such a crucial series at stake, there are bound to be some exciting battles that will play out. Here is a look at some of the more enticing ones-:

1) ANDERSON VS KOHLI

Virat Kohli India
Keep your eyes locked on the screen for this battle (Image source: CricketAustralia)

Undoubtedly, this is the most high-profile battle it is purely because of the history between these two. In 2014, during Kohli’s horrid run, Anderson made Kohli his personal bunny dismissing him as many as four times while conceding only a paltry 19 runs. 

However, in 2018, a technically stronger Kohli made sure he did not repeat the blunders of 2014 and had Anderson’s number, hitting him for 13 boundaries and not falling prey to him even once. Although Anderson was unlucky as some regulatory catches were grassed, it was commendable on Kohli’s part to alter his technique and counter the world’s best swing bowler in such a dramatic fashion. 

With the results level after the first 2 rounds, the third bout might just decide who takes the title home. 

Overall record in England

DismissalsRuns scoredBalls faced
4133320

2) BROAD VS ROHIT

Next up is Anderson’s partner-in-crime against India’s limited-overs vice-captain. Though Rohit has demolished multiple bowling attacks on Indian soil, he still has to prove his credentials overseas and he will be looking to put some runs under his belt. 

Nevertheless, he will have his task cut out for him as he faces England’s second-highest wicket-taker in Tests. Though these 2 haven’t really grappled in English conditions as of yet, it still promises to be an interesting match-up given that Broad will be trying to continue his imperious record in England while Rohit will want to cement himself as India’s numero uno opener. 

Overall record in England

DismissalsRuns scoredBalls faced
0728

BUMRAH VS ROOT

This matchup sees the English captain take on one of India’s best fast bowlers, if not the best. Despite Bumrah not being in the best of form in the recent WTC final, he has shown himself to be a quick and versatile learner and can rapidly adapt to situations so expect him to come back hard. 

Root loves playing against India and his stats show it: he has amassed nearly 1789 runs in 20 Tests at a phenomenal average of 54.21. The first and last time these two met in England, the tipping scales slightly showed their favor to Bumrah as he saw Root’s back twice in the series. Nonetheless, this series signifies a new start that will commence with ball one.

Overall record in England

DismissalsRuns scoredBalls faced
244127

Key Stats

* India have a win percentage of 23 against England, It is their third-lowest among all the teams. The worst being 15.25 against Pakistan.

*Joe Root and Virat Kohli are the highest active run-getters for the respective sides with 1789 runs and 1742 runs to their name respectively. 

*The English veteran James Anderson is the highest wicket-taker between the sides, with 118 wickets under his belt, the 38-year old stands 30 wickets clear off Ravichandran Ashwin.

*James Anderson is now joint with Alaistar Cook for the most capped player (30) against India in the longest format. This series could add one more feather to his cap. 

*The Indian skipper Virat Kohli has now captained India on 14 occasions against England, the 32-year old is 2 matches away from overtaking the former Indian skipper MS Dhoni and finding the top spot.

Both teams will be looking for blockbuster starts to their respective WTC campaigns. While India will strive for that final push to the title, England will search for the top 2 spots that so narrowly eluded them last time around. 

Regardless, the series will prove to be an enthralling one with both teams likely to bring in high-quality intensity onto the field.