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November 16 2018
India in England: Kohli and Co. will look for an encore of 2014
09 August 2018

Both India and England are considering the option of playing two spinners

It has been so hot in London that last month the Marylebone Cricket Club permitted members to enter the Pavilion at Lord’s for a T20 game without a jacket — something that in ordinary times would have been deemed a horrifying scandal. So hot, in fact, that head groundsman Mick Hunt has had to resort to rolling the pitch at five in the morning.

Rain has lowered temperatures in the city this week but there is a belief that the playing surface at the home of cricket — as they like to call this old, banked rectangle of a ground in Saint John’s Wood — will be dry when the second Test begins here on Thursday.

Whether that will actually be the case remains to be seen, but both India and England are considering the idea of fielding two spinners. It is not going to be a simple decision for Virat Kohli to make.

Illusion

One reason is the presence of Hardik Pandya in the side. Pandya is a talented cricketer and a force in limited-overs cricket, but he is far from being an undisputed all-rounder. He lends the team an illusion of balance, with Kohli tempted by the prospect of the sort of performance that Ben Stokes or Sam Curran turned in last week.

But it is just that: an illusion. In the first Test, Pandya was trusted with only 10 overs and he is yet to demonstrate that he has the discipline to score runs when the ball is swinging. Omitting a pace bowler to accommodate a second spinner would require Pandya to shoulder a greater bowling load.

And sacrificing a batsman simply isn’t an option. Perhaps the wise thing to do, then, is to drop Pandya for Kuldeep Yadav, whose bewildering variety will trouble England’s batsmen.

India’s players have taken pride in the fact that they could easily have won the first Test but the truth is that with the noble exception of Kohli, the batting performance was a dismal one. It was unlike K.L. Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane to get out playing the shots they did; India will need them to show greater application.

Shikhar Dhawan, whose weakness against the moving ball no longer seems like an issue of mentality but one of technique, ought to make way for Cheteshwar Pujara, which will enable Rahul to open alongside M. Vijay.

India won its last Test at Lord’s, back in 2014 when Ishant Sharma took seven for 74 in the second innings. A number of those players are still part of the squad; they should not want for confidence.

England’s headache

England has a headache of its own. The absence of Ben Stokes, whose affray trial is under way in Bristol, is a huge blow. Chris Woakes has taken his place in the squad but he is no replacement for Stokes. Joe Root announced on Wednesday that Ollie Pope would make his debut, batting at four. Which leaves Moeen Ali, the last spin bowler to take a five-for at this venue, and Woakes battling for one spot.

England’s recent record at Lord’s does not make for great reading, with the home side having lost four of its last eight matches, going back to the India game four years ago. Kohli will hope to inflict another defeat; he will know that it can be hard to bounce back from 0-2 down.

The teams (from)

England: Joe Root (capt.), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Alastair Cook, Sam Curran, Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope, Adil Rashid, and Chris Woakes.

India: Virat Kohli (capt.), Shikhar Dhawan, K.L. Rahul, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Mohd. Shami, Umesh Yadav, and Shardul Thakur.

On-Field Umpires: Aleem Dar, Marais Erasmus; Match Referee: Jeff Crowe; 3rd Umpire: Chris Gaffaney; 4th Umpire: Alex Wharf.

 

 

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