India vs England: First Test Preview

Cricket ball sits on pitch

We preview the opening Test of India's tour to England which will take place at Edgbaston between 1 August and 5 August. 

The English summer's main event is upon us, as Joe Root's England prepare to lock horns with Virat Kohli's India in one of the most highly-anticipated Test clashes of 2018.

For India, the first match of the series presents an opportunity to set the tone by putting pressure on their hosts from the outset.

England vs India | 1 August - 5 August | Edgbaston, Birmingham | 12:00 

To Win Match
England 1/1
Draw 3/1
India 2/1

England
The selection of white-ball specialist Adil Rashid has dominated the build-up to the first Test for the hosts, who might have preferred a more low-key start to the high-profile series.

The squad of 13 contains no reserve specialist batsmen, which means the two players who miss out on the XI will come from the bowlers and all-rounders.

Young Surrey left-arm quick Sam Curran would appear to be in the squad as cover for Ben Stokes, who has had a few injury problems this season.

The other man to miss out will be determined by what sort of balance and team make-up England opt for, with plenty of variety on offer.

Uncapped Jamie Porter is probably odds on to be carrying the drinks, but it remains to be seen if the hosts will play two spinners at home.

The pitch at Edgbaston is unlikely to be a green seamer, given the intense heat wave England has been subjected to through July. Moeen Ali appears to have won back the favour of the selectors, after he was dropped in New Zealand and left out of the squad to face Pakistan.

His return to the squad doesn't, of course, guarantee him a place in the team, with question marks still hanging over both his bowling and batting in the longest form of the game.

Stokes' ability to put in a shift with the ball will go a long way towards determining whether either Porter or Curran are given an opportunity as England's third seamer.

Among the batsmen, Keaton Jennings and Dawid Malan will play unless England come way out of left-field with their teamsheet, but neither will feel that their place in the XI is secure.

Skipper Root appears to have given up on his long battle to avoid coming in at first drop - and the result is a more solid looking England top-order than the one that was decimated in the Ashes.

Birmingham is set to be warm, rather than hot, throughout the Test with little chance of rain or even cloud cover.

India
India will have enjoyed the pressure being shifted to the hosts by Ed Smith's selection decisions, but they still come into this series carrying the expectations of a nation on their shoulders.

Fans of team India will want to see their team put to bed the suggestion that they have ridden the wave of bumper home seasons all the way to the top of the rankings.

For Kohli, the series presents a golden opportunity to cement his place in the pantheon of India's cricket demi-gods. He was sublime in South Africa, as India ran the Proteas close despite poor preparation and the challenge of seaming wickets.

Much will apparently depend on the skipper, with the top-order struggling for runs in the warm-up games. Cheteshwar Pujara has come under the spotlight, after he endured a horror run in the County Championship during his spell with Yorkshire. Usually the rock of the middle-order, Pujara could not get on top of the Proteas earlier this year. Tellingly, Pujara has scored just one Test century outside of India.

Shikhar Dhawan appears to have blown his chance to wiggle back into the Test XI, with poor scores against Essex, while other contenders for the opening berth, Murali Vijay and Lokesh Rahul, made contributions.

There has been a lot of chat about left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav getting the nod ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin, but India would be foolhardy not to retain their number one spinner. Ashwin's experience in the latter stages of the County Championship last year will have prepared him for the conditions, while footage of Nathan Lyon plaguing England will give him a blueprint for success.

Injuries to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have paved the way for Umesh Yadav to take the new ball for India, a role he impressed in against Essex. His back-up will come from veterans Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma. Shardul Thakur was called in as cover for the injured Bhuvneshwar, but will not play unless one of the established quicks goes down.

India lost regular wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha to the recurrence of a long-standing shoulder injury that required surgery. This may prove to be a blessing in disguise, though, with both 'keepers in the squad, Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant, ranking as superior batsmen to Saha, though their glovework still lags behind.

If by some miracle the Edgbaston groundsman manages to trot out a green-top, India could choose to leave out all-rounder Hardik Pandya in favour of an extra specialist bowler.

The presence of Pant, Dhawan and Karun Nair in the squad will keep the pressure on every member of the India batting line-up, barring the skipper.

A lack of Test cricket is a concern for India, whose only Test since the January defeat to South Africa was a contest against Afghanistan that was over in two days.

This team is not the India of old that came to England to be rolled over. Kohli's charges are legitimate contenders to retain the Pataudi Trophy.

Verdict: India 2/1
The extreme heat experienced in June and July in England has tipped the scales in India's favour. They are the more settled outfit and should prevail, unless England can dig deep and find some special performances. 

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Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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