These are the contests that will decide the eagerly awaited England v India Test series.
The India top order vs the England strike bowlers. But who has the edge?
We looked at three key contests:
Virat Kohli vs James Anderson
This will be one of the key battles of the Test series as the No1 Indian batsmen takes on the No1 England bowler.
It’s been a fairly even contest between these two stretching back to 2012. In that series in India, Anderson kept Kohli pretty quiet, conceding just 23 runs off 81 balls, but he also only got him out just once – caught in the slips by Graeme Swann for six in the third Test.
In 2014 Anderson completely dominated the Indian captain dismissing him with late out swingers four times for just 19 runs at a meagre average of 4.75.
Showing how much the England paceman was in charge that series, Anderson only took on average 12.5 balls to dismiss Kohli, getting him edging each time – once caught behind, once at second slip and twice by Alastair Cook at first slip.
But in 2016 in India Kohli had the last laugh taking Anderson for 69 runs off 112 balls faced at a respectable strike rate of 45.68.
Who will come out on top this time?
Ajinkya Rahane v Stuart Broad
This is another duo dominated again by the England bowler.
In 2014 in England, Broad was in charge, restricting Rahane to just 41 runs off 139 balls at a humble strike rate of 29.5, while dismissing him three times at an average of just 13.6.
It may have taken Broad a while to get Rahane, an average of 46.3 balls per wicket, but he still picked him up cheaply – twice caught by keeper Matt Prior and a screamer at third slip by Gary Balance in the fifth test.
It was the same story in India in 2016 with the right hand opener enduring a nightmare series where he scored just 63 runs from five innings at an average of 12.6.
His contest with Broad reflected that with the England man conceding just 5 runs off 15 balls for one dismissal – caught by Cook at first slip in the second Test.
If India are to be competitive in this series Rahane must deal with Broad better.
Cheteshwar Pujara v Ben Stokes
This is one India wins comfortably and they will look forward to the England all-rounder coming on while Pujara is at the crease.
In England in 2014 the Indian opener took Stokes for 50 runs at a healthy run-rate of 53.2 for just one dismissal – bowled middle stump in the second Test from a ball that nipped back from outside off.
It got a little better for Stokes in India two years ago when he conceded 69 runs, including 12 boundaries, at a strike rate of 60 but managed to dismiss the right hander twice – taking 57.5 balls each time at an average of 34.5.
The first came in the First Test in Rajkot when Stokes had him caught at slip by Cook after he had complied a 206-ball 124.
Stokes got him exactly the same way in the Fifth Test in Chennai but this time for just 16.
Kohli, 29, sits second in the Test batsmen rankings after amassing 5, 554 runs in his 66 Tests to date. However, he will be aiming to fare much better with the bat in the five-match Test series against England, beginning on Wednesday, after scoring a disappointing 134 runs in 10 innings on the 2014 tour.
Former team-mate Tendulkar continues to be impressed with Kohli’s qualities and insists his desire to improve his batting makes him stand out from the crowd.
“The best part about him is that the moment he realises there are areas he needs to work on he is immediately back in the nets working on those things,” Tendulkar was quoted as saying by Sky Sports Cricket.
“A player can only move forward if he accepts – and it requires a lot to accept and admit: ‘Okay, these are the areas where I have not done well and I need to go out and change these things’.
“He is in a good space. All he needs to do is try and be in the same space. His method of preparing himself before a tour, before a game is really nice. He should continue with that. There are going to be ups and downs, there could be bad tours, but that’s not the end of the world.”
It seems obvious. Test match specialists need to perform whenever they get a chance as there are only so many five-day matches in a year. Miss your chance and you many have to wait months before your next shot at redemption.
But the situation the current Indian team finds itself in means Test specialists in the side simply have to pull their weight as quite a few all-format stars are either injured or struggling for form.
India are sweating over the fitness of all-format pace spearheads Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah ahead of the first Test against England.
Their respective back and finger injuries are a lot more serious than previously thought or revealed. White-ball star Shikhar Dhawan bagged a pair in the warm-up match against Essex.
Virat Kohli has scored more than 20 in all innings so far in England during this tour but his woeful run in Tests in 2014 where he averaged less than 14 will be at the back of his mind.
Regular wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha is injured which means limited overs specialist Dinesh Karthik will wear the gloves.
Which leaves us with the a bunch of players who are now Test specialists. Starting at the top, opener Murali Vijay looks like the one player who can be backed to occupy the crease for a considerable period. His fifty in the warm-up match was a relief to the management as Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara failed.
Here’s the Edgbaston pitch for the first Test. Looks similar to previous Tests here. Not convinced spinners will play as big a part as some think: pic.twitter.com/ZaTXmqPCE8— George Dobell (@GeorgeDobell1) July 30, 2018
Ajinkya Rahane, a Test batsman for now after failed attempts to integrate him in the ODI team, has even more responsibility on his shoulders as he tries to ease the pressure on Kohli.
The bowling department is where it gets tricky. With Bhuvi and Bumrah uncertain, it’s Ishant Sharma who leads the pace attack with Mohammed Shami as the next best option irrespective of conditions. Both are now limited to five day cricket.
Left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav was so devastating in one T20 and one ODI against England that he forced his way onto the Test set-up. But rationally speaking, Test veteran Ravi Ashwin – with more 300 scalps under his belt plus four Test tons – remains streets ahead of Kuldeep in red ball cricket.
The weather in England is dry this time, which means spin will be a factor and Ashwin’s experience in such conditions will be invaluable.
Sure, players like KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya and Umesh Yadav can play a big role – depending on the opportunities they get – but the India management will be hoping for the Test regulars to do what they do best and allow the more flamboyant all-format players to provide the impact.