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India vs England: Virat Kohli and co. brace for trial by fire as England pace test awaits

India kick-start a high-voltage five-match Test series against England at Edgbaston on Wednesday.

cricket Updated: Aug 01, 2018 09:23 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, Birmingham
India vs England,Virat Kohli,Indian cricket team
Virat Kohli will be the target for England pacers though with rain at the weekend and a freshened-up pitch boosting them.(AP)

It has been over a month since the Indian cricket team landed in these parts, and though the T20 and ODI series were split, no one was in any doubt what the real focus of Virat Kohli and his team was. (IND v ENG full coverage) (LIVE STREAMING)

India begin a high-voltage Test series against England at Edgbaston on Wednesday. It will mark the hosts’ 1000th match and will show how India, world No 1 in Tests, translate ambition into performance.

India go into the second leg of three massive away contests this year. In South Africa, they came up short despite some fine performances with bat and ball. England will be a different ball game despite the hosts’ lack of consistency, be it Indian batsmen tackling seamers in helpful conditions or bowlers dealing with seven left-handers, four in the top six, in the England eleven.

The presence of so many left-handers is sure to throw up a selection dilemma if India plan to play one spinner and feel chinaman bowler Kuldeep is the attacking option over off-spinner R Ashwin.

India have plenty to make amends in England, after 2011 marked the decline of their golden generation of batsmen, despite Rahul Dravid’s standout show, as they were routed 4-0. It was equally painful in 2014, when they lost 1-3.

It is not as if India have not won in England, which is not the case in South Africa or Australia. India have made 17 Test tours to England starting in 1932, played 57 matches, losing 30. They have won only six Tests across 86 years, but they account for three series wins -- 1971, 1986 and 2007.

India have plenty to make amends for. In 2011, India’s ageing golden generation of batsmen, despite Rahul Dravid’s standout show, presided over a 0-4 rout. India’s trip was equally painful in 2014, when it lost 1-3.

It is not as if India have not won in England before, unlike in South Africa or Australia where they’ve at best drawn series.

ALSO READ: Adil Rashid to be England’s lone spinner in Edgbaston Test against India

They have made 17 Test tours to England since 1932, played 57 matches, and lost 30. But six wins across these 86 years brought them three series -- in 1971, 1986 and 2007.

But the big number cricket fans hope will be addressed is 13.4 -- the average Kohli collected in 2014. He bounced back with four centuries on the 2014-15 Australia tour that followed and hasn’t looked back since, but has the additional challenge as skipper this time.

England still have swing master James Anderson, who turned 36 on Monday, to look up to and his partnership with Stuart Broad will test the Indian batsmen.

Opener Murali Vijay’s patience to weather the new ball threat and success on the last tour will be vital though India may opt for in-form KL Rahul over Shikhar Dhawan to boost the top-order.

Kohli has repeatedly said 2014 won’t play on his mind, but he will be the target for England pacers, boosted after rain at the weekend freshened up the pitch. India have lost five of six matches at Edgbaston and England picking a lone spinner in Adil Rashid indicates a more seam-friendly pitch.

ALSO READ: James Anderson expects tougher test from ‘outstanding’ Virat Kohli

Kohli was in good touch on a pitch with early life when he hit 68 in the practice game against Essex, but he can still take a leaf out of idol Sachin Tendulkar’s book.

The 29-year-old’s tendency to reach out to deliveries outside off-stump early on is cited as a weakness. At the nets on Monday, he was drawn a few times into deliveries that shaped away.

But he only needs to look at Tendulkar’s famous 241 not out at Sydney in 2003-4 after he cut out the cover drive. His coming on top of the bowling will be half the battle won for India.

England will hope Alastair Cook’s experience and skipper Joe Root’s class will help hold together the unsettled batting unit. Root has struggled to convert Test fifties into centuries of late, but showed with back-to-back centuries in the ODI series win that he may be ready to change that record.

First Published: Jul 31, 2018 18:47 IST