Clash of openers Alastair Cook and Murali Vijay among the key battles at Lord's

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England and India clash in the second Test of the five-match series at Lord’s on Thursday, with the hosts carrying a 1-0 lead into the contest following the opening thriller at Edgbaston.

Here, we take a look at the key battles that could go a long way to deciding the outcome of the Test at the Home of Cricket.

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The Openers

Alastair Cook v Murali Vijay

India's Murali Vijay attends a practice session at Lord's Cricket Ground in London on August 7, 2018 ahead of the second Test cricket match between England and India. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO ASSOCIATION WITH DIRECT COMPETITOR OF SPONSOR, PARTNER, OR SUPPLIER OF THE ECB (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

In need of runs: Murali Vijay.

The England opening batsman is getting ready to play in his 26th Lord’s Test and has scored more centuries, four, at the famous old ground then at any other venue during the course of his career. But, after being on the receiving end of two Ravi Ashwin dismissals in the first Test, all eyes will be on the 33-year-old to see if he can get back in the runs after what has been a barren spell – aside from his double ton (on a flat track it has to be said) at Melbourne during the Ashes. Alongside Joe Root, Cook needs to lead from the front and could also do with partner Keaton Jennings scoring big.

His opposite number, Vijay, has crossed fifty just once in his last 10 Tests (105 against Afghanistan in June) and looks to be running on borrowed time. He doesn’t appear horrendously out of nick but the runs aren’t coming. There is no doubt he will be working on his alignment at the crease in the build-up to the second Test. Curran and Stuart Broad trapped him lbw in each innings in the Midlands, suggesting the 34-year-old is too deep in his crease and falling away a bit to the off-side as he tries to reduce his chances of nicking off.

The Jack of All Trades

Sam Curran v Hardik Pandya

Sam Curran is playing an important hand for England with the bat.

Star turn: Sam Curran changed the game in the first Test.

If it wasn’t for the 20-year-old Englishman’s bludgeoning 65-ball 63 in the second innings at Edgbaston, the hosts would have almost certainly been 1-0 down. His 102-minute stay altered the course of the game and gave England more than a fighting chance. India’s chase of 194 was a lot tougher than a target of around 130.

With Ben Stokes absent here and the Lord’s crowd certain to be delighted about the prospect of seeing the all-rounder in action, he has the chance to make the stage his own. Clearly, like his late father Kevin and brother Tom, he is a gutsy cricketer who relishes the big occasion and could prove to be a handful again with his medium pace and off-cutters, prime to upset batsmen’s rhythm on a one-paced Lord’s wicket.

On paper, Curran is a bowler who bats a bit but it is eventually thought his skills with the willow will become his premier trade. Indeed, that is the opinion of his Surrey mentor Alec Stewart.

While Curran had a Test to remember, Pandya had one to forget. The Indian all-rounder failed to take a wicket in the first innings and didn’t bowl in the second, while he got starts (22 and 31) in both of his knocks but showed his vulnerability outside off-stump, being dismissed by Curran and Stokes. In fairness, he occupied the crease well alongside Kohli as India battled to try and win the game on day four, playing two excellent, flowing drives to remind us all of his natural talent.

Fans of the Men in Blue will be craving more of that flair on a consistent basis from the 24-year-old, who has the potential to steal the show if it all comes together.

The pace battery

Stuart Broad v Ishant Sharma

England's Stuart Broad (R) and Moeen Ali attends training session at Lord's Cricket Ground in London on August 7, 2018 ahead of the second Test cricket match between England and India. (Photo by BEN STANSALL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO ASSOCIATION WITH DIRECT COMPETITOR OF SPONSOR, PARTNER, OR SUPPLIER OF THE ECB (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Needs to make a greater impact: Stuart Broad.

In an attack minus the X Factor of Stokes, England will need their second most senior bowler, behind James Anderson, to hit his straps consistently. His double-wicket second innings opening burst, dismissing Indian opening duo Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan at Edgbaston, was the result of on the money line and length bowling.

Aside from that, Broad – who is known for his ability to change the course of a game with a clutch of wickets – appeared to be struggling for rhythm again, especially in the first innings where he failed to claim a wicket and was comfortably out-shone by young Curran and Stokes’ game-changing brilliance. He needs to up the ante.

On the other hand, Ishant has certainly benefited from his county stint with Sussex over the English summer and performed admirably in Birmingham where he blew away England’s powerful middle-order to help set up the game of the batters. That India’s batsmen didn’t finish the job meant his five-for went unrewarded but he seems in a rich vein of form. The 29-year-old will need to extract pace early on at Lord’s before the wicket typically flattens out. By his own admission, he needs to figure out exactly what his role in the bowling attack is. Is he a strike bowler or workhorse?

Ishant had picked up 5-51 in the second innings at Edgbaston.

Ishant had picked up 5-51 in the second innings at Edgbaston.

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Iconic Lord's Test should provide all the inspiration India need to launch fightback

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Virat Kohli could guide India to famous win.

For anyone believing Test cricket was dead, they need only to look at the how the thrills and spills of the first Edgbaston match between England and India captured the imagination.

In England, attendance figures for the game’s longest format, and interest from the public, has never been a problem. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking Test cricket wasn’t facing problems globally when getting caught up in the Test buzz on UK shores.

Yes, the country which invented the game prides itself on the team’s success over five days, but still, it takes dedication from the cricketing public to turn out in their droves every year, and that, they do. A day at the Test, it has to be said, is not a cheap day out, either.

But a match at Lord’s is one of those such social occasions where you do splash out, make a day of it and make sure you get your ticket well in advance. It is certainly comparable to Wimbledon and the Royal Ascot meeting, with picnics and the hum of the crowd.

Aside from England’s Ashes contest every four years with Australia at the Home of Cricket – with the 200-year plus age-old venue in north London’s St John’s Wood boasting history in the bucketload – a five-day clash with India is the next biggest date on the billing.

On Thursday morning, there will be queues of two to three people deep around the ground, with punters a) waiting to get into the ground b) hoping to gain last-minute admission and then c) another queue, made up of Marylebone Cricket Club members, preparing themselves to storm through the iconic W. G. Grace Memorial Gates and secure a seat in the Pavilion.

Heightened security these days means the rush of those people lucky enough to have Lord’s membership and Pavilion access has slowed, even so, a flash of the much-fabled MCC red and gold tie (or egg and bacon colours, whatever your preference) is proof of entry so long as it is in-keeping with the dress code overall.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 14: A general view of the cricket ground during day one of the 1st Investec Test match between England and Pakistan at Lord's Cricket Ground on July 14, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Picture perfect: The famous Lord’s Cricket Ground.

Those inside the 1889-built structure not only have the perfect view of the action but get to see the fielding side and the two opening batsmen walk through the famous Long Room and then on to the outfield.

The build-up to this is some sight, given an ex-player of legendary status rings the five-minute bell to inform the respective teams to get ready.

Should Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings make that journey, members will crowd the small corridors and stair areas around the dressing rooms, stand and clap the duo while they can be slightly colder to the touring team – but do always acknowledge the game’s greats.

The atmosphere in part is a bit stuffy and is perhaps not for everyone but also stands alone in cricketing circles and from a player’s perspective, particularly for those on the visiting side, it is an occasion you need to lap up, remember and embrace.

Over the course of one’s international career, a Test tour of England occurs once every four years, so in a sense, you never know how many more chances you will get to perform on the grandest stage.

It is the Test match you want to play overseas.

The personal reward is great, too. By scoring a hundred or claiming a five-wicket haul, players etch their name on the famous Lord’s Honours Boards and will also become decorated in the ground’s on-site Museum, which is one of sport’s oldest and houses the iconic 11 cm high Ashes Urn. It’s worth a visit, if you get the chance.

This weight of history and occasion should form part of Virat Kohli‘s team-talk to inspire his men to fight back and level the series.

Four years ago, the Men in Blue triumphed at Lord’s in front of many Indian fans so there should be no shortage of motivation from the tourists to repeat that feat.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 21: England batsman James Anderson (r) looks on as the India team celebrate their win during day five of 2nd Investec Test match between England and India at Lord's Cricket Ground on July 21, 2014 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Back in 2014, India won the first Test at Lord’s to go 1-0 up in the series.

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MCC consider introducing concept of 'shot-clock' runs penalty in cricket

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Cricket is being urged to consider the concept of a 'shot-clock' runs penalty.

World cricket is being urged to consider a new ‘shot-clock’ runs penalty which could have the potential to change the result of close matches.

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting explained, after the annual MCC world cricket committee meeting at Lord’s, how the new measure might work to address the scourge of poor over rates.

The committee discussed the suggestion that, instead of the current International Cricket Council policy – of monetary fines for captains, with the possibility of suspensions for repeat offenders – in-match penalties could be levied in probable five-run increments for each transgression.

In instances such as England‘s 31-run margin of victory in the thrilling Edgbaston Test against India last weekend, for example, teams could run the risk of losing when they would otherwise have won.

Ponting said: “We are of the belief that a there-and-then run penalty in the game would be definitely worth looking at.

The new concept has the potential to change results of close matches.

The new concept has the potential to change results of close matches.

“You would imagine then the captains would take a huge responsibility in making sure their players are ready to go.

“If they are not in a position for three or four overs that could be 20 runs, and in the context of the game we saw last week that could be the difference in a Test match.”

Ponting believes a new strategy is needed to stop a perennial problem.

“It probably seems a little extreme, the idea of the ‘shot-clock’- but once again this year in all three formats of the game the over rates have been in decline,” he said.

“So we’ve talked about the idea of the shot-clock, and that’s basically the dead time in the game, the end of the over, the fielders and bowlers have to be back in position – and that’s non negotiable.

“The same with the new batsman coming to the crease, the bowling team have to be ready when he gets to the crease.

“We feel that what has been in place for a long period of time hasn’t worked.”

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