Date: August 4-8, 2021
Time: 3:30 pm start (IST)
Venue: Trent Bridge, Nottingham
England will be up against India in the first Test of a five-match Test series on Wednesday, August 4 at Trent Bridge in Nottingham. The India squad, which came to the United Kingdom for the ICC World Test Championship final against New Zealand in June, stayed on in England post the match. They even took a few days off before regrouping in Durham for training and a warm-up match against County Select XI.
However, some of India's key players including captain Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane as well as Rishabh Pant missed the lone warm-up match due to various reasons. While Pant had contracted Coronavirus and has since then recovered and joined the team, Rahane was nursing a hamstring niggle. Even Kohli complained of a back issue and rested in that match.
Meanwhile, Washington Sundar and Avesh Khan, who were playing for County Select XI in this match, sustained injuries and were ruled out of the tour. Even Shubman Gill will miss the England series after a stress fracture in his shin. But perhaps the biggest blow came less than 48 hours before the start of the match with Mayank Agarwal getting hurt on the head in the nets. He has been ruled out of the opening Test even as reinforcements Suryakumar Yadav and Prithvi Shaw are likely to be unavailable for the first two Tests.
For England, their last Test series was against New Zealand where they faced a 1-0 loss in the two-match series. However, the performances of Rory Burns and Ollie Robinson could be the major positives from that series for the Three Lions. However, the hosts will be without the services of Ben Stokes, who's taking an indefinite break from cricket to prioritise his mental health as well as Jofra Archer, who's still recovering from his elbow surgery.
With both teams looking to find the right balance at least for the first few matches, this could be an exciting series and a blockbuster start to a long Test cricket summer awaits all the cricket fanatics.
Head to Head:
England won: 48
India won: 29
Haseeb Hameed might be given a run in this Test series as Dominic Sibley and Zak Crawley haven't been too consistent at the top of the order. The only other dilemma, management could face is the choice between Sam Curran or Ollie Robbinson and perhaps the last call could be made based on the conditions. They would look to have at least one spinning option other than part times Joe Root since the historical trend in matches played in England at this time of the year, suggests spinners would be in the game.
India will have to find an opening partner for Rohit Sharma. While Shubman has been ruled out of the entire series, Mayank Agarwal is set to miss at least the first one. Moreover, reinforcement Prithvi Shaw is yet to join the team. The only possible option they have now is to choose between Abhimanyu Easwaran and KL Rahul after Rahane confirmed that number 3 Pujara won't be promoted to the opening slot. The other decision they need to make is to go with two or a single spinner after their plan did not quite work in the Test Championship final against the Kiwis.
Players to watch out for:
Rohit Sharma: For all the focus on Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, this could well be the arrival of Rohit Sharma in Test match cricket. Although he has proven himself in Indian conditions, the only thing missing in his record book is a Test hundred away from home. With the Hitman getting starts as he showed in Australia as well as the WTC final, he just needs to hang in there and get a big one to make it count. Rohit scored five centuries in the 2019 World Cup in English conditions, surely he knows a thing or two about batting in England. Although facing the red ball would be a different challenge, he is too good a player to let that come in the way of his and team's success.
Joe Root: The England batting will yet again revolve around Joe Root. At one stage, he was at par with the likes of Kane Williamson, Virat Kohli and Steven Smith but gradually he seems to be trailing in comparison with the other three. Even in English conditions, in recent times, he does not have a good average. With this being the start of the series, Joe would be determined to make a statement and guide England to a dominant performance in the series opener and push the visitors on the backfoot.
Probable Playing XI:
England: Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed/ Dominic Sibley, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Daniel Lawrence, Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, James Anderson, Jack Leach
India: Abhimanyu Easwaran /KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja/Mohammed Siraj, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah