England take on India in the first of five Tests which begins in Birmingham on Monday. Top-ranked India are without their premier fast bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah while England have won just two out of their last 10 Tests.
Stakes will be high as India try to prove they truly deserve the No1 status while England look to put the impetus back into their red-ball cricket after prioritising limited over cricket for a few years.
Here, Sport360‘s cricket writers make their predictions about the Pataudi Trophy 2018.
A lot of it depends on the weather. If it stays dry and hot then the games may descend into slow scoring draws while if the rains start to come the wickets will tumble. Either way the hosts to win.
Best performer: Alastair Cook
With not that many home series to play the former captain will want to make this summer a big one. With the wickets unlikely to give the bowlers much, expect Cook to dig in and stay there.
Disappointment: Ravichandran Ashwin
Ashwin has been magnificent through his career but I think he will struggle here. England won’t have a lot of trouble picking his regulation off spin and expect the middle order to score heavily against him.
Scoreline: 3-1 to England
The hosts won in 2011 and 2014 against India and expect that record to be continued. Their batting is capable of doing serious damage to an under strength Indian bowling unit while the tourists’ batsmen are still finding their feet on English soil.
Best performer: Joe Root
All eyes will be on how Virat Kohli fares following his disappointing 2014 tour but the England captain should steal the spotlight, just how he did when he finished highest scorer four years ago.
Disappointment: Cheteshwar Pujara
Despite playing county cricket this summer, the 30-year-old isn’t in the best of form after averaging 14.33 from 12 innings for Yorkshire. It won’t come any easier against the likes of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Scoreline: 3-1 to England
Winners: Neither side. India will take time to warm up in England – so may Virat Kohli – but Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah will come back in time to trouble the hosts and help level the series.
Best performer: Jos Buttler. It’s difficult to imagine England’s top-order woes will be miraculously cured – their middle-order isn’t shabby though. Buttler, the new Test vice-captain, is box office and now with added substance.
Disappointment: Kuldeep Yadav if and when he starts. England’s limited-overs team will be full of tips for openers Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings on how best to play a spinner who they eventually got to grips with last month.
The injuries in India’s pace department cannot be understated neither can the wealth of experience in their English counterparts be overstated. Expect the hosts to start strongly while India take their time to get going.
Best performer: Jonny Bairstow
One of the few respectable performers for England when they toured India in 2016-17, Jonny Bairstow is primed to have a big series with the bat following his excellent form in limited-overs cricket.
Disappointment: Adil Rashid
England have set themselves up for a big fall by giving leg-spinner Rashid a Test recall based solely on the fact that he dismissed Virat Kohli twice in the ODI series.
Scoreline: 3-1 to England.
If India had a fully-fit side, I would have backed them to win against an English team that has fallen dramatically behind in red-ball cricket. But in a five-Test series, you need your best wicket-taking bowlers and India don’t have that at the moment.
Best performer: Virat Kohli
Kohli is too good a player to keep failing. Expect him to double down to ensure he comes up with the runs. This time it’s personal and Kohli will leave no stone unturned.
Disappointment: Cheteshwar Pujara
The wheels are beginning to come off Pujara’s batting. There is hardly any fluency in his scoring and his game has come to a standstill when it should have progressed to the next level.
Scoreline: England 3-2 (weather permitting)
Joe Root hopes he is inheriting the Test-match skills of Adil Rashid at the perfect time.
The England captain confirmed his fellow Yorkshireman, subject of an open-season reaction since his controversial selection in a 13-man squad last week, will be the sole spinner to take on India in the first Test at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
Root spelled out too that, contrary to some rumblings, he needed no persuading about Rashid’s recall – at a time when the leg-spinner has no first-class contract with Yorkshire or any apparent plans to return to County Championship action this summer.
He senses Rashid’s significant white-ball improvement for club and country indicates that, at the age of 30, he has matured to the point that he should be ready to do himself and England full justice at Test level.
Starting in their landmark 1,000th Test, England will certainly need him to be more of a threat than his career figures to date suggest – after 38 wickets at an average of 42.78 from 10 overseas caps.
Opinion divided on Adil Rashid's recall. Imho, ECB selectors have set a wrong precedent by picking a player for Tests who does not want to play first-class cricket. #EngvInd— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) July 31, 2018
Root has known Rashid throughout his own professional career, having followed him up through the ranks at Yorkshire, and said: “He’s very talented – he always has been.
“I think over the last couple of years… he has grown as a player massively. He’s got high skill levels, which I think are very transferable into Test cricket. I’ve known Adil for a long time, seen his success over the last year in white-ball cricket and feel I have an opportunity to get the best out of him in this format now.”
Rashid’s chance comes at the expense of fellow spinner Moeen Ali, who alongside uncapped seamer Jamie Porter has not graduated from squad to team.
Root added: “(Adil) is bowling with a huge amount of confidence at the minute… (and) has matured a hell of a lot since he last played Test cricket. Obviously I was in favour of the selection, and I think it gives us a really great attacking spinning option.”
He believes the furore in some quarters over Rashid’s selection – despite his current white-ball only status, and including in part from Yorkshire – has been misplaced.
“In terms of the criticism, people are entitled to their opinions and can voice what they want,” said Root. “I probably think it’s slightly unfair – but (that’s) my opinion.”
Root is also reassured by national selector Ed Smith’s assertion that Rashid, and anyone else from next season onwards, must be playing red-ball cricket to be in the Test reckoning.
“I think… putting that rule in place as of next year, it makes it very clear for everyone,” he said. “If they see themselves as someone who wants to play Test cricket they have to get themselves a red-ball contract and perform in county cricket.”
BUTTLER AS VICE-CAPTAIN
England made a second notable announcement on Tuesday, that Jos Buttler will be vice-captain for the remainder of the campaign – just two matches into his comeback, also on the back of outstanding limited-overs form.
“He is obviously vice-captain of the white-ball sides,” said Root. “He thinks extremely well about the game, and has a huge amount of respect within the dressing room. Looking at very long term, five to 10 years, I see him as someone who can really drive this team forward – and I think it’s a great opportunity for him to start doing that now.”
Buttler takes over from James Anderson, himself an interim appointment during last winter’s Ashes while permanent incumbent Ben Stokes was unavailable.
Here, we take a look at some key statistics ahead of the potential blockbuster.
19 – It has been exactly 19 months since leg-spinner Adil Rashid last played a Test match for England.
1 – Under Kohli’s captaincy, India have played only one overseas Test series outside Asia. It ended in a 1-2 defeat to South Africa.
3 – Number of Test series won by India in England. They have lost 13 of the 17 Test series in England.
1000 – The Edgbaston Test will be the 1,000th played by England in its history. They will become the first team to do so.
2.7 – The average number of wickets England pacer James Anderson picks up in the first innings at Birmingham.
1 – The number of surviving members from the Indian squad which last won a Test series in England (2007). Only Dinesh Karthik remains.
2 – The number of Tests England have won in their last 10 encounters. The wins came against Pakistan and West Indies.
0 – The number of centuries Joe Root has registered in his last 10 Tests. His most recent ton came against Windies last summer.