India's Jasprit Bumrah bowls in the nets as he steps up his recovery ahead of the Tests against England

Sudhir Gupta 25/07/2018
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Bumrah trains with the team at Chelmsford. Image - BCCI/Twitter.

India received a significant boost ahead of the five-Test series against England with pacer Jasprit Bumrah making a return to bowling in the nets.

The Mumbai pacer injured his thumb during India’s T20 tour of Ireland earlier this summer and has been out of action ever since. He was named in the 18-man squad for the first three Tests of the series but it was understood that Bumrah was facing a race against time to get fit for the opening at Edgbaston.

However, the fast-bowler is now on the road to recovery after he was seen bowling in the nets ahead of India’s ongoing warm-up game against Essex at Chelmsford on Wednesday.

Bumrah and Umesh Yadav could be seen bowling in the nets during the team’s training session before their three-day clash against Essex got underway on Wednesday

While there is still not telling if Bumrah will be able to get himself fit in time for the first Test which begins at Edgbaston on August 1, India will be relieved to see him get back into the nets as they struggle with injuries to key pacers.

Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar aggravated his lower back injury in the third and final ODI against England and has been ruled out of the first three Tests. Bhuvneshwar has returned to India to step up his rehabilitation.

That has left India with a pace attack comprising of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur for the first three Tests. Skipper Virat Kohli will be hoping that Bumrah can recover quickly given his performances in his debut Test series against South Africa earlier this year.

The India quick picked up 14 wickets in the three Tests against the Proteas at an average of 25.21.

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Virat Kohli's battle against James Anderson and other key talking points ahead of the Test series between England and India

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Kohli has struggled against James Anderson previously in England.

England face India in a five-match Test series which begins at Edgbaston next Wednesday.

Here Press Association Sport looks at five talking points as Joe Root‘s side look to overcome the world’s top-ranked Test side.

BELT-AND-BRACES… BUT NO RASHID, SURELY?

England’s selection for the first Test will be intriguing, and it will be no surprise if they name 13 to cover all bases. The batting picks itself, with opener Keaton Jennings and Dawid Malan in the middle order nonetheless potentially vulnerable at some point over the next six weeks. It is likely an extra third seamer will at least arrive in Edgbaston next week, but the identity of the spinners is most interesting.

Adil Rashid has effectively de-selected himself – irrespective of coach Trevor Bayliss’ recent hints to the contrary – and he will surely be left to pursue his white-ball plans. Moeen Ali and Jack Leach will give England the option to turn the ball either way… or both.

England have been mulling a Test recall for Adil Rashid.

England have been mulling a Test recall for Adil Rashid.

WELCOME INDIA!

There was a minor sub-plot at Chelmsford on Tuesday when India persuaded their hosts that the warm-up fixture against Essex should be played over three days instead of four. Eastern whispers suggested the tourists were unhappy with the playing area – pitch too green, outfield too brown. But nothing official was confirmed other than India did not want to over-exert themselves, and will therefore travel on to Birmingham a day early with a spring in their step.

It fits a conspiracy narrative of home countries – last winter’s Ashes a case in point – depriving tourists useful preparation. Chelmsford did bear an uncanny resemblance to the Ahmedabad B pitch on which England faced Haryana in 2012. Alastair Cook’s men went on to win that series, and in this instance India just happen to have arrived during an unaccustomed heatwave.

Kohli's men have had their warm-up game reduced to three days.

Kohli’s men have had their warm-up game reduced to three days.

KOHLI V ANDERSON

It was before the Mumbai Test in December 2016 that this battle began to hot up. With Virat Kohli already in suitably imperious form, England’s all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson chose to point out it may not be quite the same story when the India captain heads back to this country.

It was here in 2014 that Kohli’s prolific career suffered a blip with a series average of 13.4 in 10 innings. Scroll on two-and-a-half years, he responded to Anderson’s observations with a mere 235 in an innings victory at the Wankhede as India surged towards a 4-0 series victory. The rematch is eagerly anticipated.

Kohli will be eager to make up for his poor show in 2014.

Kohli will be eager to make up for his poor show in 2014.

EDGBASTON OCCASION

Birmingham has the honour of staging England’s 1,000th Test next week. It is a showpiece which will also get under way on Yorkshire Day, August 1, so home captain Joe Root will be feeling like he belongs. The omens appear quite good then for the hosts.

Edgbaston will play host to England's 1000th Test match.

Edgbaston will play host to England’s 1000th Test match.

AND THE WINNERS ARE?

This may depend on next month’s weather. If England’s driest summer goes the distance, India will be best equipped. The visiting batsmen will rightly be more confident against England’s seamers if there is little cloud cover above or grass below, and a touring squad featuring the spin of the two Ravis – Jadeja and Ashwin, with Kuldeep Yadav available too – may be lethal long before the series reaches The Oval in September. If the skies darken and the rains come, though, it will be very much advantage England.

The weather will play a crucial role in the battle between the two sides.

The weather will play a crucial role in the battle between the two sides.

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Pakistan's Azhar Ali delighted with debut county ton for Somerset

Waseem Ahmed 25/07/2018
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Azhar Ali scored 125 on debut for Somerset.

Pakistan’s Azhar Ali made his county championship debut a one to remember with a superb century for Somerset in their clash against Worcestershire at Blackfinch New Road on Tuesday.

The Pakistan batsman struck a fluent 125 on day three to help Somerset set a mammoth target of 443 to win for Worcestershire in their second innings.

Azhar scored 125 off just 188 balls with the help of 13 boundaries and two sixes in the second division clash and was the last man dismissed before Somerset declared their second innings at 362-9.

“I’m really happy. It is my first game for Somerset and I’ve been made welcome,” Azhar told Somerset’s website after the match.

“Moeen (Ali) started to turn the ball out of the rough so I thought attacking him early on was the right option because if you are bogged down, they can bring a short leg into play so, I had to go after him to start with,” the Pakistan man said while reflecting on his innings.

“We wanted to score runs as well to be in a position to boss the game. That is why I played positively and it paid off,” explained Azhar, who was eventually dismissed by Moeen Ali himself.

Somerset had signed Azhar recently as a replacement for Matt Renshaw after the Australia opener broke his finger. The opener had been eyeing a deal in county cricket since Pakistan toured England earlier this May for a two-match Test series.

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