The first Test between England and India at Edgbaston is a little more than a week away and the visitors have their task cut out to assemble a pace attack given the spate of recent injuries to key players.
Bumrah injured his thumb in the final T20 against Ireland and is facing a race against time to get himself fit for the first Test. The Mumbai pacer, in all likelihood, is expected to miss the first Test with his participation in the second still up in the air.
Bhuvneshwar meanwhile, has flown back to India to recuperate after not being named in the squad for the first three Tests and is a doubt for the remainder of the series as well after aggravating a lower back injury in the final ODI against England.
The injuries to two pacers who were a certainty to form a part of India’s bowling attack in the five-match series has severely depleted the options at Kohli’s disposal.
India will have to bank on a pace attack comprising of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami at the start of the series if Bumrah is unable to recover on time. Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur has been named in the squad too but India will only want to turn to him as a last resort given his inexperience.
In Ishant, India have an excellent work-horse who has performed decently on previous tour of England. His promising stint with Sussex in the County Championship should also hold him in good stead ahead of the series.
However, expecting Ishant to be the strike-bowler will be wishful thinking on India’s part with the pacer more suited as the first-change option in the pace department.
That means the onus on providing the wickets with the new ball will fall on the shoulders of Umesh and Shami. The former has not played Test cricket previously on English shores while the latter endured a disappointing time during the 2014 tour.
Shami picked up only five wickets in the three Tests he played in 2014 at an average of nearly 73 and a strike-rate greater than 115. On top of that, the pacer is coming back into the team on the back of struggles with fitness as well as controversies in his personal life.
The 27-year-old missed the one-off Test against Afghanistan due to his failure to clear the Yo-Yo fitness test but such is India’s desperation in the pace department currently that Shami will probably be the first name of on the team sheet for the first Test.
Umesh, on the other hand, did well in the Afghanistan Test but he has not been a regular in India’s Test setup in recent times. The Delhi pacer did not feature in a single Test in India’s tour of South Africa earlier this year with Shami, Bumrah, Ishant and Bhuvneshwar forming the attack.
Quite simply, India will be running on bare reserves when it comes to fast-bowling in the Test series and another injury in that department could prove catastrophic for Kohli and his men.
They will desperately be hoping that Shami can hit his stride immediately after his long lay-off and for Umesh to bring his more consistent self rather than the occasionally wayward and frustrating bowler he can be at times. Failing that, it could be a long and disappointing English summer for the visitors.
The quality possessed by Sarfraz Ahmed’s men has proved to be a bridge too far for the depleted hosts with the visitors racking up records one after the other like they have been going out of fashion.
FAKHAR ZAMAN ON THE VERGE OF ANOTHER RECORD
Just two days after he became Pakistan’s first double centurion in ODI cricket and sixth overall, Fakhar Zaman will have the chance to enter the record books once again.
The left-handed opener is 20 runs shy of the 1,000-run mark in the format. Should he achieve the same on Sunday, Fakhar will become the fastest batsman to get to the milestone. Currently, Sir Viv Richards holds that record after completing the feat in 21 innings. On the other hand, the Pakistan man’s 980 runs have come in just 17 innings at an average greater than 75.
HOSTS LOOK FOR SILVER LINING
There has been nothing to shout about for Zimbabwe cricket for some time now. With the administration in turmoil as wage-dispute saga ranges on with the players, Zimbabwe cricket has hit its nadir.
Skipper Hamilton Masakadza has been handed a thankless task following the pullout of five senior players even before the series started. Then, they lost the in-form Solomon Mire and all-rounder Kyle Jarvis to injuries with Malcolm Wallace also pulling out of the squad citing labour-practice laws.
Their four defeats in the series have been as one-sided as they come and it will take something extraordinary for the hosts to make a killing in the final ODI. It is a win they desperately need at the moment given the way Zimbabwean cricket has been declining.
PAKISTAN EXPECTED TO RING IN THE CHANGES
Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur talked about using the five-match series as a drawing board for the 2019 World Cup preparations and that is exactly what Sarfaz’s men have done so far.
The men in green have rotated their personnel throughout the series and the same will be expected on Sunday. Pace spearhead Mohammad Amir has played only two of the four matches in the series so far and he should get another run out in the final ODI.
Leg-spinner Yasir Shah played the last two matches on his return from injury and Sunday could be the turn of Mohammad Nawaz to feature in the playing XI.
In the batting department, Haris Sohail could get a game after missing out on all four matches so far.
The banned Australia star struck a fluent 32-ball 36 in his side’s win over Cameron Bancroft’s Northern Tide at Darwin.
The left-handed opener was opener was handed a 12-month ban by Cricket Australia for his role in the ball-tampering episode which occurred during the side’s tour of South Africa earlier this year.
Warner recently made a return to competitive cricket in the inaugural Global T20 Canada league where he took on the captaincy duties for Winnipeg Hawks midway through the tournament. His Saturday appearance for the City Cyclones was his first in a domestic tournament in Australia ever since he was handed the ban.
With the World Cup in England now less than 12 months away, Warner is hoping to step up his preparations in the near future.
“I’m pretty good when I’m fresh,” Warner was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au after his NT Strike League debut.
“If you look at the last 12 months, I played basically every game (for Australia) and didn’t get a rest. I had a five-day turnaround before the first Test in South Africa and I led the team in (the T20 tri-series in Australia and) New Zealand when some of the other guys had a rest.
“So I know that the breaks do me (good), and you don’t lose form overnight. You can be a bit scratchy, but time in the nets and … I wake up every day and face Mitchell Starc, (Pat) Cummins and (Josh) Hazlewood, the best bowlers, I feel, in the world.”
The 31-year-old believes facing the Australia pace trio in the nets along with a stint in next year’s IPL will hold him in great stead for the World Cup.
“If I can face them (Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood) consistently at training when the ban’s up, that gets you back in. You’ve got plenty of warm-up games (before the World Cup), and I’ll be playing the IPL as well leading into that,” Warner explained.
“So there’s plenty of cricket and plenty of world-class players to play against, as well to get my preparation on song,” he added.
Australia will come in as the defending champions for the 2019 World Cup edition after lifting the crown at home in 2015.