England vs. India, 1st Test – Preview

I’m struggling to remember a time when on the eve of such a high-profile Test Series that it feels like it has completely snuck up on us. With the BBC and Sky focusing their undivided attention on their new shiny product as mandated by the ECB, it feels like the most important format of the game has been shunted aside in order to focus on some salty snacks. It doesn’t help either that cricket social media is currently involved in a bloody civil war, the likes I haven’t seen since 2014, in what at best is likely to result in a pyrrhic victory for one side. I have tried not to comment too much on The Hundred due to some of the vitriol being thrown around, but both Dmitri and TLG here and George Dobell, Sam Morshead and David Hopps elsewhere have written some terrific and balanced articles around it. Let’s just say the £50million punt to attract a new audience seems to have been less than successful so far.

Anyway, back to the upcoming Test Series, which has only really been covered by the media due to the sad but absolutely correct decision by Ben Stokes to withdraw from due to mental health challenges. Thankfully it is only a minority of the nose breathing public that have been critical of this decision arguing that these cricketers are being paid a lot to perform, thankfully the majority have rightly expressed their concern for Ben’s welfare. Most of us don’t understand the pressures that top class sports individuals face especially with an unrelenting schedule and added pressure of the ‘bubble environment’, after all these people are only human like you and I, therefore it is no surprise that eventually this was going happen. Ben won’t be the first, nor will he be the last cricketer who will need to take time out to preserve their mental health. I’m sure everyone who reads this just wants Ben to take the time out he needs to get better, after all, cricket will still be here when he is ready to return. As someone who freely admits to have gone through my own mental health challenges, all I can say is go well Ben.

As for actually previewing this series, the lack of any of red ball action that either side has played recently due to the ECB shoehorning an unnecessary format into the summer, makes it almost impossible to precisely predict what will happen. The majority of England’s red ball specialists (except Haseem Hameed) haven’t played a red ball game since a rain affected round of fixtures on 11th-14th July, whilst the likes of Sam Curran and Jos Buttler haven’t played a red ball game since January and February respectively. With injuries and absentees for Archer, Woakes and the aforementioned Stokes, it makes it difficult to predict what sort of side England will pick. One would imagine that Anderson and Broad will play at Trent Bridge and it wouldn’t surprise me if Curran is picked at 7 as an all-rounder. As for the batting it will interesting to see if Hameed, who is the form batsman currently is picked ahead of Sibley or Crawley. One can argue that a top 3 of Sibley, Burns and Hameed might be too stodgy, but with this England batting line up, beggars can’t be choosers. The one thing I hope England avoid is going in with an all-seam attack. It didn’t work against New Zealand in the summer and I’m pretty sure it won’t work now. Jack Leach has been in great form for Somerset and played well against India in the sub-continent, so I genuinely feel it would be a grave mistake for the selectors to overlook him again.

As for India, they haven’t exactly had a smooth build up to the series either. Firstly, they had Covid in the camp and then they have been afflicted by the same injury bug that England have had with Agarwal the latest to be declared unavailable due to a concussion sustained in training. This leaves India seriously green at the top of the order with either Rahul or Pujara likely to have to step up to open which is not their natural role. This combined with a complete lack of red ball practice for Rahane and Kohli, who both missed the Durham game, also means that India are entering this series with a batting line up that is seriously undercooked. The one thing India does have is fast bowling attack that is spoilt with riches and a world class spinner in R. Ashwin, who has proved he can perform in all conditions. It does make me think that whichever side bowls the best will win the first couple of games.

The one thing that I am most looking forward to about tomorrow is to put all the strife and vitriol behind me for a little while and to concentrate on the format that I love best. Hopefully the weather will behave, and we can concentrate on exciting series against one of the best Test team’s in world cricket.

As ever thoughts on the game and anything else, gratefully received below:

29 thoughts on “England vs. India, 1st Test – Preview

  1. Miami Dad's Six Aug 3, 2021 / 8:09 pm

    It really has crept up.

    I would suggest that England will struggle to score enough runs over 5 Tests to win the series. With that in mind, bowlers who can bat might actually be the best bet, although I usually hate it as the go to. I don’t think I’d play all 3 of Leach, Jimmy and Broad. Leach to miss Trent Bridge but play in the remaining 4 would be my option.

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    • Sean Aug 3, 2021 / 8:18 pm

      Well it looks like Bairstow is going to be picked ahead of Lawrence so we’ll probably need all the batting options we can muster..

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    • Marek Aug 3, 2021 / 9:33 pm

      They really don’t help themselves sometimes do they?

      That’ll be the Jonny Bairstow who’s scored one red-ball half-century (against a side that only fielded three specialist bowlers and only one player with a current career bowling average of less than 35) in the last two years, and who last played a red-ball game five months ago.

      So, , a much better option than the player who, callow and somewhat flaky as he is, has scored three Test 50s this year, who’s played several red-ball games this season and is in passably good form!

      And as for Crawley. [Holds head in hands]. If you take away his one huge outlier innings, he averages 19 in 13 tests. And he averages 10 in tests this year. So clearly a much better prospect than the player who’s averaging more than 50 in red-ball cricket this season, looked very solid in his few tests (all against India) and who took a hundred off the India attack all of two weeks ago.

      What could possibly go wrong?! (Well I guess they could select seven batters and leave out Leach….)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sean Aug 3, 2021 / 9:45 pm

        Yep that’s my genuine fear. It doesn’t really help the ‘perform in county cricket and you’ll get picked’ rather than the ‘old boys club’.

        If they don’t pick a specialist spin bowler tomorrow my internal screaming might become external..

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      • Marek Aug 3, 2021 / 10:30 pm

        Doesn’t really tick the diversity boxes either does it when the old boys are independently educated and the ones left out are from comprehensives?!

        Funny how a dreamy cover drive has more weight attached to it if somebody other than the taxpayer paid for your education!

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        • dArthez Aug 4, 2021 / 4:39 am

          But those boxes only have to be ticked for marketing exercises …

          Speaking of marketing exercises, does anyone even get the impression that British Asians have bothered with the Hundred? And the British Caribbean community? (Sorry if I forget what they are called officially)?

          You know, the communities that could not be bothered to attend matches in England, as per the ECB’s own research?

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      • Marek Aug 4, 2021 / 12:18 pm

        Wow! I was actually joking when I wrote the Leach comment, didn’t think they’d really do it.

        Still, Dan Lawrence is a passable part-time spinner…!

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        • Sean Aug 4, 2021 / 12:24 pm

          Chumitocracy..

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  2. jacques Aug 4, 2021 / 9:42 am

    I’m finding it quite difficult to have much enthusiasm for this England team these days, what with the apparent ‘Root’s mates’ bias. It will be interesting to see how Buttler bats – i saw an interesting piece of analysis that suggested his test scores were far better when he had not been playing short format cricket, (for example last year when the IPL and our ODI series were cancelled) which of course he has this year. Don’t know when he last played red ball cricket? God knows why Bairstow is back except that he’s a Yorkie.

    As an aside, I was watching Middx v Lancs in Royal London yesterday and the commentators were saying that unless Middx qualify for the final rounds, they will play no cricket at all between Aug 12 and Aug 30. Height of the summer and no cricket for Middx supporters. Shameful.

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    • Marek Aug 4, 2021 / 12:47 pm

      I’m fairly sceptical of the Root’s mates argument and the Yorkshire bias–just as I was of Smith’s mates and the Kent bias, the Essex mafia and so on. I think it assumes much too much about people’s intentions rather than their correctness of their decisionmaking and their cricketing (not personal) biases and obsessions. It also assumes too much about the personal relationships of people who (I would guess) almost no-one BTL knows.

      Re the Middx games: I think that’s a difficult one. The fixture list is a huge jigsaw at the best of times and it’s a direct result of having the RL knock-out matches so close together and immediately followed by the Blast quarters (which for my money are spaced out too far). But the real fly in the ointment in that respect this year has been that, unusually, a group of teams have done well in all three competitions…with, of course, the result that a different bunch have been eliminated from all three very early on. If the top three in each RL group remained unchanged then Middx would have the company of six other teams. Time to resurrect the Tilcon Trophy!

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      • jacques Aug 4, 2021 / 2:57 pm

        You may well be right about the Root’s mates, i just find it difficult to see any other rationale for recalling Bairstow at this point. i suppose they would argue that he has a lot of experience at test level but so for example (and I’m not necessarily saying they should have included him) has Keaton Jennings and he has been playing FC cricket and making runs. As have a few others.

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      • dArthez Aug 4, 2021 / 3:08 pm

        Never attribute to malice what can clearly be explained by Silverwood’s incompetence.

        Seriously, if you realize how much money is spent on the England Test team, you wonder if slashing the budget by 90% would actually IMPROVE England. I am inclined to believe that it would.

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  3. dlpthomas Aug 4, 2021 / 11:15 am

    Ball doing a bit – England could reallyu struggle here.

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  4. dlpthomas Aug 4, 2021 / 12:26 pm

    I see Strauss (or perhaps more accurately, “hear”) is back in the commentary box. Why?

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    • Sean Aug 4, 2021 / 12:30 pm

      They’ve got Nasser and a couple of others doing the Hundred. Strauss also able to perfectly tow the company line..

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      • dlpthomas Aug 4, 2021 / 2:00 pm

        Is Nasser exctiable enough for the Hundred?

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      • dArthez Aug 4, 2021 / 2:58 pm

        And when Strauss clearly stuffs up, he’ll get cricket moment of the year. When a player similar stuffs up he’ll get banned for 2 games, if not more.

        Class, the ECB.

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    • Marek Aug 4, 2021 / 12:50 pm

      Well, who else in commentary minds their language so little that they can do the necessary and call people related to some recent developments in English cricket cunts…:-)

      …well there’s one but he works for the BBC….

      Like

    • Mark Aug 4, 2021 / 4:34 pm

      What difference does it make if it’s a County or franchise Kevin?

      The problem is the lack of red ball cricket, which is being made worse every season as the best part of the summer is given over to limited over cricket.

      Franchises are even less likely to want to play red ball cricket than Counties are, as nobody will be attending. So there is no profit in it for them.

      In other news….. Bangladesh just beat Australia in the hit and giggle. You have to take your victories where you can these days!

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    • Miami Dad's Six Aug 4, 2021 / 4:51 pm

      Lol.

      The numbers 5 and 7 are presumably fantastic because they’re franchise legends.

      Am I right in thinking number 4 doesn’t really have a franchise cricket history?

      KP is a silly sausage at times.

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    • Mark Aug 4, 2021 / 5:03 pm

      Because words on Twitter from six years ago when you where a teenager are seen as more serious than physical actions these days. Even if they are alleged actions.

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      • Grenville Aug 4, 2021 / 5:27 pm

        You may be right, but I hope that it is more complicated than that. Struggling to see how, mind.

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      • Marek Aug 4, 2021 / 9:30 pm

        Well if they’re alleged–which as far as I can see is the stage they’re still at, bizarre as it may seem three years later–then he’s innocent till proven guilty.

        And I can think of at least two international crickjeters in the last 25 years who’ve been acquitted of rape charges.

        I’m not sure I understand your point about physical actions and tweeting anyway, Mark. Did you miss the furore about the physical actions of Jimmy Savile, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Noel Clarke et al?!

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    • dArthez Aug 4, 2021 / 5:49 pm

      From the article: “Moreover, he is so famous that he cannot flee without being noticed.” – how many England cricketers would that apply to?

      I am not sure whether or not Mr. Shami or Mrs. Shami is speaking the truth. From a distance I can have an idea, but it is not for me to judge. That will be the up to the judge (and if infidelity was a serious crime in say Australia, I don’t think they would have been able to field a cricket team in the period 1995-2007, but that is an aside).

      And yes, I know that femicide, and women’s rights are a huge issue in India or the rest of the subcontinent for that matter. But arguments can be made both ways – that Shami is playing because women have a hard time, but also, the other way around – that Mrs. Shami is already quite privileged and is leveraging that to her advantage (and if the charges cannot be substantiated in a court of law, would it be fair on a defendant to have his life destroyed over that?). Again, as an outsider to make judgment calls on what is what is hard. There is definitely a class-based angle that too deserves to be explored to make sense of the whole case, as well as the wheels of the justice system in India. And I am sure that is starting to happen a bit more.

      We should also bear in mind, that none of the offenses alleged is pertaining to cricket as a sport. Just that a cricketer is being charged with the alleged offences. Just as Strauss was not deemed unfit for office after c*nt-gate in the commentary box. Arguments can even be made that that contributed to getting a plum ECB job, in which he then had the gall to imply that women were retards and could not count to six.

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  5. Miami Dad's Six Aug 4, 2021 / 4:56 pm

    160-9 from 138-3.

    India have plugged away excellently all day.

    England…well, it wasn’t unexpected.

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  6. dArthez Aug 4, 2021 / 6:41 pm

    Just 9 overs short for the day. By the end of the series we might have lost 2 days worth of play on pathetic over rates.

    Like

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