Adil Rashid set to make return as England confirm playing XI for first Test against India

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Adil Rashid will play his first Test since 2016.

Adil Rashid is set to play his first Test since 2016 as England confirmed their playing XI to take on India in the series opener at Edgbaston on Wednesday.

The leg-spinner’s recall to the Test squad was a controversial one with former England skippers Michael Vaughan and Geoffrey Boycott questioning the logic behind it .But Rashid, who has been on a self-imposed exile from red-ball cricket with Yorkshire since the start of the year, is included as the lone spinner in the final squad with Moeen Ali missing out.

There was a surprise in England’s pace line-up with Sam Curran being favoured ahead of Essex’s Jamie Porter who misses out on a Test debut. This will be 20-year-old Curran’s second Test for England after his debut against Pakistan earlier this summer which yielded him a total of two wickets.

Keaton Jennings will continue to open the innings with Alastair Cook while Dawid Malan keeps his place in the middle-order. All-rounder Ben Stokes has also been deemed fit enough to play at Edgbaston. Jos Buttler continues his remarkable resurgence with the wicket-keeper batsman being elevated to vice-captaincy duties for the first time in his England Test career.

ENGLAND XI

Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Joe Root (c), Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Sam Curran, Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.

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England v India: Battle between revamped Virat Kohli and peak James Anderson will light up series

Ashish Peter 31/07/2018
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The next chapter of Kohli v Anderson promises to be a blockbuster.

As Edgbaston gets ready to host England’s 1,000th Test match, the eyes of the cricket world will be on one of the most eagerly anticipated personal duels in recent times.

India skipper Virat Kohli will be looking to banish his demons from the previous tour of the country in 2014 when a certain James Anderson exposed a big deficiency in the batsman’s technique to get the better of him on no less than four occasions.

The right-handed batsman’s tendency to fish around the off-stump proved costly as Anderson exploited that weakness to the hilt in England’s 3-1 series triumph.  A series aggregate of 134 runs in 10 innings for Kohli was the ultimate result with the India superstar’s quest to be considered the greatest batsman in the world taking a huge hit.

Four years later, that battle is set to be reignited while the stakes remain as high as ever. At 36 years old, Anderson comes into the series as the No1 ranked Test bowler in the world. With Steve Smith serving his 12-month ban from international cricket, Kohli comes into the series as the top-ranked active batsman in the world on the other hand.

As such, it will very much be a battle of the very best Test cricket has to offer at the moment. A lot has changed for Kohli since that ill-fated tour of 2014. Then, his Test credentials were very much untested with the Indian batsman not even making the top 20 in the rankings.

A lot, meanwhile, has remained the same for Anderson. He was very much a bowler at the peak of his powers in 2014 and is still, as evidenced by the latest bowlers’ rankings, the same force with the ball.

If anything, it will now be a duel of equals. One only has to look at the performances of both players in the four years since 2014 to deduce the same.

Kohli’s redemption song actually started in 2014 as he put on one of his best, if not the best overseas Test performance in the tour of Australia. The India man scored a whopping 692 runs in the four Tests with four tons to his name to finish as the top run-scorer in the series.

Kohli bounced back strongly from his 2014 failure in England.

Kohli bounced back strongly from his 2014 failure in England.

That was the first overseas tour outside the subcontinent in the four-year period for Kohli. Since then, he has undertaken two more – the West Indies and South Africa. In the tour of the West Indies in 2016, the batsman once again finished as the top run-scorer with 251 runs to his name in the three Tests. The same pattern was followed in South Africa at the start of 2018 where his 286 runs in the three Tests were the highest by any batsman from either side.

The poor performance in England four years ago was the only time Kohli’s average dipped to below 40. It has been rapidly picking up since then and he now returns to the country with an average of 53.40. In 2016 and 2017 alone, Kohli averaged more than 75 with nearly 2, 300 runs to his name from 22 matches.

When England came calling to India at the end of 2016, the India skipper had a monster of a series with the bat as he notched up 655 runs in the five Tests at an average of over 109.

Anderson, on the other hand, has kept up his excellent consistency over the past four years despite approaching what is surely the twilight of his career. What has been noticeable though, are his ever-improving displays in home conditions.

Before the 2014 series against India, Anderson averaged 27.34 in 51 matches played in England. Since then, in the 27 Tests he has played in his own backyard, Anderson has picked up 131 wickets at an average of 18.97. The difference in his strike-rates before/after the 2014 series is also stark, with the pacer striking every 43 balls now at home compared to every 54 balls prior.

Anderson has kept getting better in home conditions since 2014.

Anderson has kept getting better in home conditions since 2014.

His overseas performances have still not set the world alight in the last four years but there is no denying that the Lancashire man has mastered the art of swinging the Duke cricket ball in England.

When England visited India in 2016-17, Anderson failed to pick up the wicket of Kohli even once in the five Tests with the India batsman scoring 69 runs off the 112 deliveries he faced from the pacer.

However, Test cricket in England will be a totally different ball-game. Both the players have changed in their own ways since 2014 and are probably at the peak of their powers.

One way or the other, this battle is set to be a treat to cricket fans around the world as two giants of the game collide to bring home the prize for their respective teams.

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New Zealand turn down offer to tour Pakistan for T20 series

Waseem Ahmed 31/07/2018
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New Zealand will not tour Pakistan in October.

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) have refused the chance to tour Pakistan for a T20 series.

The Black Caps are slated to tour the UAE in October this year when they will take on Pakistan in three Tests, three ODIs and as many T20Is.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had been attempting to convince the New Zealand board to hold the T20 matches in Pakistan but have now been told that there is no chance of that happening.

“At the end of the day it came down to following the advisory and the security reports we’d obtained,” NZC chairman Greg Barclay was quoted as saying by NEWSHUB.

“There’s no doubt they (PCB) are disappointed. I think they saw a tour by a country like New Zealand as being a great precedent for them to start to build an international programme back in Pakistan.

Kane Williamson's men will take on Pakistan in the UAE.

Kane Williamson’s men will take on Pakistan in the UAE.

“So they’re disappointed but they’re good guys, we get on really well with Pakistan, and I think they’re fully accepting of the decision that we’ve reached.”

New Zealand have not toured Pakistan for 15 years now. Their last visit to the country in 2003 ended on a premature note after a bomb blast outside the team hotel in Karachi.

Pakistan have been attempting to bring back international cricket to the country in recent times. The likes of Sri Lanka and West Indies have all played T20Is in Pakistan over the past year while some matches of the Pakistan Super League have been staged in Karachi and Lahore too. Barclay stated that New Zealand remained committed to see international cricket return in a big way to the country.

“We’re very sympathetic to the plight they (PCB) find themselves in, we’re a member of the ICC, we’re very aware that the ICC are trying to facilitate more international cricket in Pakistan and we’re very supportive of that. But all circumstances considered, we just decided circumstances weren’t right for us to tour at the moment,” Barclay concluded.

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