Anderson, Broad injuries may hand India the advantage at Lord’s
Forecast of dry weather, the momentum from the first Test and an injury cloud over England’s most successful pace pair James Anderson and Stuart Broad all seem to indicate the stars have aligned well for India going into the second Test starting at Lord’s on Thursday.
Already depleted due to the absence of all-rounder Ben Stokes and injured fast bowler Jofra Archer, beleaguered England were scrambling to put together a decent playing XI after Broad pulled up during warm-up on Tuesday and was sent for scans on a calf problem. Anderson too is a doubtful starter after missing the England training session on Wednesday due to tight quadriceps.
They are the highest wicket-takers for England, with 621 and 524 scalps respectively. England have not played without at least one of them since October 2016.
Not having Anderson will be a massive blow to the hosts, and gives India a clear upper hand. It will be a psychological boost to Indian batsmen, as the Lancashire master of swing has been India’s nemesis over the past three series in England, playing a starring role in the 4-0, 3-1 and 4-1 series wins in 2011, 2014 and 2018.
On the prospect of both Anderson and Broad missing out, England batsman Jonny Bairstow said: “It would (be a big loss) for the team. They have got 1,000 Test wickets between them… but with it comes the opportunity for other people.”
Even with Anderson in the England ranks, Virat Kohli’s men did well to dominate the drawn first Test before rain washed out the final day’s play. India looked set for victory, needing 157 runs to win on the last day with nine wickets in hand.
India’s domination in the game was built on their potent pace attack. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are devastating on helpful surfaces. It was on display at Trent Bridge where Indian pacers bagged all 20 wickets. Barring skipper Joe Root, they rattled the England top-order. India’s four-pronged pace attack—Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur were the other pacers—shook the confidence of Rory Burns, Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley. Experts are already criticising the England top order. It could force the hosts into making changes to their batting as well with left-handed opener Haseeb Hameed in the mix for a comeback. England have also recalled all-rounder Moeen Ali into the squad.
The main challenge for the Indian bowlers will be Root. In both the innings at Trent Bridge, he looked in supreme touch. Root’s second innings century is a perfect template for batting in English conditions. Though under pressure, he always looked for runs, scoring 109 at a strike rate of 63.37.
India’s batting though has its own problems. They were unable to capitalise on the good work the bowlers did to dismiss England for 183 in the first innings. After a solid start, the middle-order caved in as India went from 97/0 to 112/4 with Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkaya Rahane falling in succession.
Pujara and Rahane have been under some pressure due to the lack of big runs since the Australia series. Kohli though has backed his senior batsmen saying their low scores isn’t an area of concern.
“I don't think that's an area of concern. Our basic focus is not to think individually but collectively how much strength they bring into the team is our focus. What's your best and strongest batting unit that you can take on the park,” he said.
India will bank on openers Rohit Sharma and Rahul. They negotiated the new ball well in both innings in the first Test, during stands of 97 and 34. Sharma has been at ease but needs to convert his starts.
Rishabh Pant is also yet to fire. His reputation is built on the spectacular counter-attacking innings he played in England the last time, and in Australia and India, but that approach hasn’t worked in the two Tests he has played in the UK so far on this trip.
Kohli though has backed the keeper-batsman to stick to his natural game. “Communication is very clear from the team and where we are heading as a team and what kind of approach is needed in different situations. We expect him to play innings that changes momentum and tilts the balance towards us,” he said.
“When the situation demands, he is intelligent enough to understand whether we are looking to save a game. he won't play those kind of shots. But wherever there is a 50-50 situation and he has a chance to change the momentum, he will take that chance.”
England quick Mark Wood will come in for Broad while Saqib Mahmood has been called up as cover for Anderson. The onus though will be on two-Test old Ollie Robinson to spearhead the attack. The 27-year-old fast bowler showed in-your-face aggression, moved the ball in from an awkward length and used his height to extract bounce. The five-wicket haul was well earned. As he showed on debut against New Zealand with a seven-wicket haul, he will be a handful at Lord’s.
While England are left to pick up the pieces, India have plenty of options to replace Shardul Thakur, who is ruled out due to a hamstring niggle. R Ashwin or Ishant Sharma is expected to come in depending on the combination India go with.