By Aman Huda
Across four days in Birmingham, cricket fans witnessed one of the best test matches in years. On what was expected to be a batting surface, the ball swung quite a lot, excitingly, and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin’s four-for and seamer Mohammad Shami’s three wickets restricted England to 287, courtesy of Jenning’s 42, Root’s 70, and Bairstow’s 80. India’s batting line looked even worse as at one point, the team was drowning at 182-8, but Virat Kohli’s 149 let India to just a 13 run deficit. Captain Kohli’s excellent batting was followed up by excellent bowling as Ishant Sharma took a fiver at 10.2 runs apiece. However, the best show of the test had to be England’s Sam Curran, who got to his maiden half-century in the second innings and took five wickets in the test. Ben Stokes’ 4 wickets in the last innings provided England a 31-run win, but with that being said, there are still four matches to go, and England barely came out alive in fourth.
Both sides made crucial mistakes and some players might have to pay the price for it. Dawid Malan dropped three catches in the slips, one of Virat Kohli’s, who at the time was 21*, went on to score 149. Dawid Malan is set to be dropped and batsman Ollie Pope is confirmed to make his England debut. The other question for England is about the absence of Ben Stokes, who will be in court. They have two choices to replace him, Chris Woakes or Moeen Ali. If England wants a better batting option, Moeen Ali seems the better pick and his spin does provide wickets. But if England wants to opt for a tradition pacer on a pitch that may swing, Chris Woakes seems like the best option. What does go for Woakes’ way is that Woakes has managed to score runs for the lower order while Moeen Ali’s batting performance has been dismal lately. Another area of concern for the English has to be the role of Alastair Cook. England needs Cook to step up this series to have their best shot of winning as England cannot just rely on Jennings or Root.
India themselves have some questions to answer as well. Their best bowler, Jasprit Bumrah, will be sidelined due to injury. India might not necessarily need to make any changes in the bowling department, but they do have Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav as backup spinners since Umesh Yadav’s performance at the Edgbaston wasn’t convincing. The biggest questions, however, come in their batting. Shikhar Dhawan hasn’t been the test opener India have been looking for, but the backup option, Chateshwar Pujara has been in poor form. Based off that, India may stick with the same batting lineup, but perhaps switch the spinners.
Tests at Lord’s generally tend to have grassy pitches which aid the bowlers, but the UK’s current heat wave may make things difficult and may aid the batsmen. Based on that, the teams may look to exploit spin and India will possibly look to bring Jadeja in the team to partner Ashwin and England might give Moeen Ali the green light for the Lord’s test.
The second test begins tomorrow at Lord’s, London at 11 AM GMT or 6 AM EST. The match will be broadcasted on Sky Sports in the UK and on Willow TV in the United States.