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Preview: England Look to Take the Lead in Vizag

Alt="England celebrate Murali Vijay's dismissal"
England’s players celebrate the wicket of Indian batsman Murali Vijay on the fifth day of their first cricket test match between India and England in Rajkot, India, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

One could not have possibly hoped for a better opening to a five-match test series in India than the one we saw not too long ago. It may have been an apparently flat surface that had a penchant for anyone with a willow in hand but there’s no denying that England’s bowlers did make the contest a lot more interesting than it should have been by giving India a bit of a scare on the final day after the fans had been subjected to some largely skilful batting from both the sides. Irrespective of what the Rajkot pitch had (or not) to offer, the message is clear very early on: England aren’t here to prowl around and India will have to be at their very best if they are to beat Alastair Cook’s side.

However, the same goes for England too as they move on to the second test at Visakhapatnam a.k.a Vizag which has already been a hot topic among the Indian Cricket faithful for all the wrong reasons, the best of them being New Zealand’s surrender in the fifth ODI against India which saw them being skittled for a scanty 79 on a “slow turner”. While the ACA Secretary has maintained that the pitch would be more neutral, the curator sounded somewhat different:
“There will not be much grass and we should expect the ball to turn from lunch on Day 2.Yesterday, it was cold and today it’s drastically hot and humid and wicket appears dry now. We will see how is it on the eve of the match”. Make of that what you will.

Judging by those words, it’s nearly sure that England won’t be in for any surprise this time around – they were expecting a rank turner and they might get one. Nevertheless, the visitors mustn’t fall into the trap that India want them to, by warranting a change in approach to their batting. Even if on a relatively flatter track, Cook’s side were just about perfect in the way they handled spin bowling and that’s how they should bat in the upcoming tests too. Going into the shell won’t help, it definitely wouldn’t.

An example that proves just that is England’s horror show against Pakistan in the UAE when it seemed as if some of the batsmen were batting on sufferance rather than will. Such a mindset doesn’t help when you are trying to tackle someone like Ravichandran Ashwin in India as that’s what a bowler feeds on. England don’t really need to look too far to learn this lesson since they have Alastair Cook who is arguably the best player of spin in the world. When he plays, you get the feeling that he enjoys batting against the turning ball and wants to score, wants to overcome the challenge which is exactly why he’s so successful. If the others can emulate him, or even follow their own set standard in the first test, England’s chances of taking a lead won’t be done any harm to,, especially with the bowling department looking set to back them up.

England don’t need any change, do they? The batting seems perfectly balanced and so does the bowling. Maybe, Trevor Bayliss could be tempted to play James Anderson in place of Zafar Ansari or even Stuart Broad but that largely depends on the pitch. Also, we may just see Jos Buttler make it to the squad in place of Ben Duckett.

Probable XI: Cook, Hameed, Root, Duckett, Ali, Stokes, Bairstow, Ansari, Rashid, Woakes, Anderson.

About Harneet Singh Sethi

The perfect mélange of an Anglophile and a Gooner, Harneet Singh Sethi chooses to laconically define himself in one word: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. He has been a Sports Writer for three years, having worked for websites like GiveMeSport, Fans Unite and The Roar among plenty others, a time during which he has earned a decent reputation covering both Football (primarily Arsenal) and Cricket (primarily English Cricket). Not your average guy.

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