An out-of-sorts Alastair Cook, Virat Kohli and other men in the spotlight as England and India prepare for Lord's battle

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Alastair Cook's form is in focus ahead of the Lord's Test.

After a momentous battle at Edgbaston, England and India are all set to resume their rivalry when the two sides meet at Lord’s for the second Test on August 9.

With a 1-0 lead in the five-match series, the hosts will be looking to widen the gap further while the visitors will be itching to get themselves back on level terms.

As the two heavyweights get ready to go head-to-head once again, we look at the players who will be under the spotlight at Lord’s.

ALASTAIR COOK

The 157-Test veteran has been a shadow of his former self for quite some time now. For a man once touted to break Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 51 Test tons, Cook’s returns have been vastly diminishing since 2016. In 2015-16, the opener registered five centuries and 15 fifties in 59 Test innings. Since the turn of 2017, Cook has only managed to muster two tons along with three half-centuries in 31 innings. One of the tons (243) came against West Indies at home while the other (244) came in a dead-rubber against Australia at Melbourne.

He was dismissed in identical fashion in both innings at Edgbaston by Ravi Ashwin who has now dismissed the left-hander nine times in the Test format. Make no mistake, India will unleash Ashwin early once again against Cook at Lord’s and it remains to be seen if the veteran can pass that test this time.

Cook's form since 2016 has been on a downward spiral.

Cook’s form since 2016 has been on a downward spiral.

CHRIS WOAKES

England’s star all-rounder and Edgbaston victory protagonist Ben Stokes will be missing at Lord’s due to his much publicised trial at Bristol. Stokes’ bowling displays in both innings at Birmingham were pivotal for England’s victory and it will be quite the task for Chris Woakes to replicate those contributions when he takes the field at Lord’s.

Woakes has only recently returned from a prolonged injury-layoff and it will be imperative that he hit the ground running straight away if England are to balance the loss of Stokes’ contributions to the side.

Woakes will need to fill Stokes' boots adequately.

Woakes will need to fill Stokes’ boots adequately.

VIRAT KOHLI

Virat Kohli has been under the spotlight ever since the five-match Test series was announced. The India skipper’s poor track record in England and against James Anderson in particular was in focus when the two sides met at Edgbaston. He answered all his critics with a titanic performance which saw him register his maiden Test ton on English soil.

The epitome of a warrior and a batsman at the very top of his game currently, Kohli looks to be in the mood to have a monster series. He accounted for 200 of the 414 runs India scored with the bat at Birmingham and he will be hoping for a little more support from the rest of the Indian batsmen this time around.

His heroics at Edgbaston coupled with the failure of the rest of the batting unit were reminiscent of Sachin Tendulkar carrying India on his shoulders in the 1990s. Now, Kohli will want to do something his idol never achieved in his illustrious career – to get his name on the honours’ board at Lord’s.

Kohli looks poised to have a monster series.

Kohli looks poised to have a monster series.

AJINKYA RAHANE

While Kohli will want to carry on his stupendous form, he will be hoping from some more support from the rest of the Indian batting line-up. One man he will be hoping can step up at Lord’s is Ajinkya Rahane.

Rahane has been India’s most consistent overseas batsman in recent years but his performance at Edgbaston left plenty to be desired. He was one of the architects of India’s victory the last time they played a Test at Lord’s with a masterful knock of 104 in the first innings in 2014.

The middle-order batsman will want to evoke the memories of that innings as he takes guard at the ‘home of cricket’ and provide the support Kohli so desperately needs right now.

Rahane will need to summon the memories of his 2014 showing.

Rahane will need to summon the memories of his 2014 showing.

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Australia pacer Pat Cummins in danger of missing Test series against Pakistan

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Cummins is reportedly lagging behind in his injury rehabilitation.

Pat Cummins’ impressive streak of playing 13 Tests consecutively for Australia could be about to come to an end with the pacer reportedly running out of time in his race to get fit for the upcoming series against Pakistan.

Australia are due to tour UAE in October this year where they will play a two-Test series against Pakistan followed by three T20s.

The Aussie pace triumvirate of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Cummins has been out of action with injuries since the team’s ill-fated tour of South Africa earlier this April. Starc had on Monday provided Australia with a timely boost with the pace spearhead approaching full fitness ahead of the clashes with Pakistan but the progress status of both Hazlewood and Cummins is looking bleak so far.

According to a report by cricket.com.au, Cummins is the furthest back of the three pacers when it comes to their injury rehabilitation process.

Hazlewood and Cummins are facing a race against time to be fit.

Hazlewood and Cummins are facing a race against time to be fit.

The three pacers are set to undergo a week of testing at Cricket Australia’s elite facility at Brisbane. The trio will undergo further scans in the coming days with Cricket Australia set to provide an update on their fitness in a week’s time.

Cummins had endured an injury-riddled career since making his Test bow for Australia in 2011. He did not play another Test for almost six years before returning to the fold in Australia’s tour of India in March last year. Since then, the 25-year-old has played 13 Tests on the bounce for Australia including the 4-0 Ashes series win over England last year.

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South Africa pacer Dale Steyn says that Kagiso Rabada is a much better bowler compared to him currently

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Steyn has lavished praise on young Rabada.

South Africa pacer Dale Steyn has admitted that Kagiso Rabada is a much better bowler compared to him at the moment.

Steyn, who recently equalled Shaun Pollock’s tally of 421 wickets to become South Africa’s all-time leading wicket-taker in Test cricket, believes his own experience can help 23-year-old Rabada develop even further.

“He’s (Rabada) way better than me. I have obviously got my records and everything but he’s way better than I am right now,” Steyn told reporters.

“What he lacks is what I have, and that’s what I can share going forward. I will just carry on doing what I do and he can feed off that, he can learn off that and he can just become so much better.”

Rabada has made rapid strides in international cricket ever since he made his debut for South Africa in 2014. Already considered to be one of the leading pacers in world cricket at the moment, Rabada is perched at the second spot in ICC’s rankings for Test bowlers behind England’s James Anderson.

Steyn wants to use his experience to help Rabada improve further.

Steyn wants to use his experience to help Rabada improve further.

In January this year, Rabada had become the youngest bowler to attain the top Test bowlers’ ranking since the 19th century. He has already picked up 151 wickets in just 32 Tests for South Africa at an average which is less than 22. He breached the 150-wicket mark in the recent second Test against Sri Lanka and became the youngest bowler in history to do so.

His ODI record is equally impressive with 80 scalps in 51 appearances so far at an average of 27.38.

While Rabada has emerged as the new face of South Africa’s Test attack, Steyn believes experienced heads will be crucial for the side in the ODI World Cup in 2019.

The senior pacer was not picked in South Africa’s squad for the ongoing ODI series against Sri Lanka but he is hoping to be on the plane to England as the Proteas search for their maiden World Cup title.

“They (young fast bowlers) are all learning as they play but unfortunately you can’t go to a World Cup still learning. You need to know what you are doing,” Steyn stated.

“Even at 35 I am still learning but I know what I am doing. These guys need that. I am hoping that’s what I can offer in the white ball scene and obviously play and win games for the country.”

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