Senior batsmen need to raise their game and other key areas as India search for victory in Lord's Test

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The likes of Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane need to step up for India.

The opening game of the five-match series between England and India was the perfect advertisement for Test cricket.

In the end of a thrilling Test in Birmingham, it was the hosts who came trumps with a 31-run win. For the visitors, it was a case of so close and yet so far as skipper Virat Kohli’s titanic effort of 200 runs in a low-scoring Test went in vain.

As the attention now shifts to Lord’s for the second Test, we look at the key areas India need to improve upon.

BATTING MUDDLE

India’s batting minus Kohli was their biggest drawback at Edgbaston with none of the other top-order batsman making any imapct.

The skipper himself accounted for 200 of the 436 runs in total scored by India with the next best batsman –  Hardik Pandya – contributing 53 runs.

India will be hoping Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane provide a more meaningful contribution at Lord’s. The senior duo have played in English conditions and they will need to take more responsibility as the series progresses.

Apart from Vijay and Rahane, India have more headaches with the dismal form of Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul. Both batsmen seemed highly suspect against the moving ball at Edgbaston and India might consider playing just one of them as an opener at Lord’s.

This means a recall for Cheteshwar Pujara after the top-order batsman was dropped for the Edgbaston Test following his extended poor run with the bat. Pujara’s proven ability to wear out the red-ball could just be what the side needs with most Indian batsmen failing to spend any substantial time at the crease. It will still be huge risk reinstating him in the line-up but it can’t be much worse than what Dhawan and Rahul have served up so far.

India must choose between Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul to open.

India must choose between Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul to open.

INCONSISTENT PACERS

While Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin were exemplary with the ball for India at Edgbaston, Kohli will be disappointed with what he saw from the rest of his bowling attack.

Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Pandya were inconsistent with their lines and lengths and failed to put the England batsmen under pressure despite enjoying the luxury of a lively pitch which had something for the pacers for almost entire Test.

Their inconsistencies were in stark contrast to England’s pacers who constantly troubled India’s batsmen and did not allow them any breathing space.

With no update on Jasprit Bumrah’s recovery process so far, India could be forced to choose from the same set of pacers at Lord’s. As such, Shami and Umesh will need to reflect on where they went wrong at Edgbaston and up the ante at Lord’s.

Umesh Yadav was guilty of wasting excellent conditions for pacers.

Umesh Yadav was guilty of wasting excellent conditions for pacers.

TWO SPINNERS?

As Ashwin’s performance at Edgbaston showed, spinners could have a big part to play in the remainder of the series if the heatwave in the UK continues. England’s left-handers looked at sea against Ashwin before Sam Curran took the attack to the off-spinner late in the second innings.

With India’s pacers apart from Ishant misfiring at Edgbaston, Kohli could field two spinners. That would mean sacrificing one pacer or Pandya. Umesh is more likely to sit if Kohli does go down this road.

Lord’s has traditionally had something for the spinners as Yasir Shah showed for Pakistan in 2016 with a ten-wicket match haul. In Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav, Kohli has a solid pair of extra spinners and it could just be the attacking option India need to get back into the series.

India could still be tempted to play the Kuldeep Yadav card.

Kuldeep Yadav is a good option for the Lord’s Test.

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Sourav Ganguly urges Virat Kohli not to tinker with batting line-up at Lord's

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Ganguly has warned Kohli against chopping and changing too much.

While Virat Kohli has changed his Test line-up every single match since he took over the India captaincy, former skipper Sourav Ganguly has urged the current captain to resist that temptation in the second Test against England at Lord’s.

India fell to a 31-run defeat in the first Test of the five-match series at Edgbaston with the visitors’ batting – apart from that of the skipper himself – failing to perform.

Despite that setback, Ganguly has asked Kohli to stick with the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay when they take the field at Lord’s.

“If you’ve to win a Test then everyone has to score runs. This was the first Test in a five-match series and I think this team has the capability to come back & play well. Ajinkya Rahane & Murali Vijay will have to show some determination since they have scored runs in these conditions before,” Ganguly wrote on his Instagram.

If you've to win a Test then everyone has to score runs. The other batsmen have to score 100's as well. #ViratKohli played very well otherwise India would have been out of the match on the 2nd day itself. This was the first Test in a 5 match series & I think this team has the capability to come back & play well. #AjinkyaRahane & #MuraliVijay will have to show some determination since they have scored runs in these conditions before. I don't think the captain is responsible for the loss. If you're the captain then you'll be criticised for a loss the same way as you're congratulated for a win. One criticism for @Virat.Kohli is that he should give a consistent run to his batters & more time before dropping them. The failure against swing in English conditions can't be used as an excuse any more as everyone knows that its what you get when you come to England. You can't be excused all the time & we have lost before in 2011 & 2014. You've to bat well. It's a very well known fact that the ball will swing in England the same way as Australia is known for its pacy wickets. So if previously you've scored runs there is no reason you can't now. The captain should give confidence to his players. It's his team & only he can change their mindset. He will have to sit with them & tell them that if he can do it so can they. He should give them time & tell them to go out & play without any fear. It is true that after continuous chopping & changing of the playing XI, players can get afraid that after all these years they've failed to garner the faith of the team management." The good thing about the great teams of the past - whether it be #Australia, #SouthAfrica or our very own team which won the Test series here in 2007 - was that the boys used to play both formats of the game - #SachinTendulkar, #RahulDravid, #VirenderSehwag, including myself. So even if you played badly in 1 or 2 matches you got a lot of time to get back into form at the international level. Playing & scoring 150 in first-class cricket can't compensate for international cricket. In this team no batsman except Virat plays all the formats. - SG

A post shared by Sourav Ganguly (@sganguly99) on

“One criticism for Virat Kohli is that he should give a consistent run to his batters & more time before dropping them. The failure against swing in English conditions can’t be used as an excuse any more as everyone knows that it’s what you get when you come to England,” he continued.

“You can’t be excused all the time & we have lost before in 2011 & 2014. You’ve to bat well. It’s a very well known fact that the ball will swing in England the same way as Australia is known for its pacy wickets. So if previously you’ve scored runs, there is no reason you can’t now.”

It remains to be seen if Kohli takes up the former India skipper’s advise in the Lord’s Test which gets underway on August 9.

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India fast bowler Mohammed Siraj on fire as he picks up 24 wickets in three matches

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Mohammed Siraj.

Fast bowler Mohammad Siraj has been on fire in first-class cricket, picking up 24 wickets across three matches to stake his claim for a spot in the Test match set-up.

In the ongoing unofficial Test in Bengaluru against South Africa ‘A’ , Hyderabad quick Siraj – playing for India ‘A’ – picked up five wickets in the first innings and 4-18 in 10 overs in the second to take his match tally to nine. The Proteas are only four wickets down with one more day’s play left, which means Siraj can do more damage.

Before this match, Siraj was in top form in England for India ‘A’, picking up eight wickets across two innings against West Indies ‘A’ and seven wickets against the England Lions. That means he has already snared 24 wickets from three first-class matches with the possibility of more.

India are missing the services of key Test fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and  Bhuvneshwar Kumar and their absence was felt in the first test against England in Birmingham which the visitors lost by 31 runs.

Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav did not make much an impact on an extremely helpful pitch and in a game of such small margins, a better effort from either of the two could have done the job for India.

With Ishant Sharma the only Indian fast bowler to bowl consistently in the opening Test, the management will be looking elsewhere to bolster the pace attack for the remaining four matches. There is Shardul Thakur in the squad but the management could look at someone like Siraj as he has bowled well in England, is a proper red-ball bowler and is among the wickets.

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