While some Indian fans might still have not got over the incredible Indian victory at Brisbane, the team already has a different challenge knocking the doors. At stake is the place in the inaugural World Test Championship alongside already qualified New Zealand. Both the contesting teams- India and England- have the chance to qualify. However without a doubt India would be firm favourites and England would have to play out of their skin to pull off the heist. To win even a single match against India on its home soil is itself a tough task as such instances in the last decade can be counted on fingers. Only thrice have India lost a home Test match and only once a series in the last decade. But it was the English team only that breached the Indian fortress in 2012 with the series win under Alastair Cook.
Cook had a formidable batting line up consisting of himself at the top followed by the middle order of Trott, Pieterson and Bell, all of whom played Indian spinners quite well. But what won them the series was the deadly spin combo of Swann and Panesar. The current England team’s batting will revolve around their captain Root who recently had an excellent outing in Sri Lanka and would be playing his 100th Test Match. It would be interesting to see the effectiveness of English spinners Bess, Moeen and Leach against the experienced Indian batting lineup which would be boosted by the return of their captain Virat in the middle order. Their performance holds the key of England’s success in the series.
Probable XI : Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel/Md Siraj, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah
Rohit Sharma has an amazing average of just below 90 playing at home. He will be accompanied by the young stylish Shubman Gill who impressed one and all with his wide range of strokes on Australian wicket. Gill would like to build up on the starts that he gets and make it count by a big one that he missed in Australia. The middle order will again be complete by presence of Kohli amidst the reliable pair of Pujara and Rahane.
Kohli must be itching to get on the field after missing the last three tests for being on paternity leave. Also he would hope to score some big ones to make up for the dry spell last year- the only year since his debut that he didn’t score any century. Also Rishabh Pant with his brilliant innings in Sydney and Brisbane has confirmed his berth in the team. Earlier Saha used to be India’s first choice for turning tracks.
India’s bowling unit would again be at its best with the return of previously injured bowlers- Ishant, Bumrah and Ashwin. Kuldeep might finally get a nod in the absence of Jadeja after being on sidelines for a long period. The nature of pitch would decide whether India would choose a spinner in Axar or a pacer in Siraj as the fifth bowling option. It is quite likely that none of the bowlers who won India the Brisbane test would feature in the first test.
Probable XI: Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Dan Lawrence, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jack Leach, James Anderson
Rory Burns will join Sibley at the top after being back in the team from the paternity leave. Sibley showed some great resolve to face the Sri Lankan spinners and take his team home. He would look to carry forward his confidence from the second test. In the absence of Crawley, who got injured in a freak incident, Pope and Stokes should form the middle order with their in-form captain Joe Root. Depending on whether England play an extra batsman or go with the all round option of Woakes or Bess, Dan Lawrence might get a chance to feature in the eleven.
England pace attack is second to none having the guile and experience of Anderson and Broad and the raw pace and accuracy of Archer. However if India prepare a turning track, the onus would be on the spinners to claim the major share of 20 Indian wickets and win their side the match.
Come what may, we have an exciting contest on the cards as international cricket returns to India after a gap of almost a year. Both the teams would be high on confidence having achieved an elusive series win away from home. The unusual greenish look of Chepauk pitch and the new SG ball with more pronounced seam and a harder interior might play an important part in the much awaited encounter.