Ed Hawkins previews game one from Birmingham from Wednesday and says England have problems to solve
"A bit like England, though, India's batsmen must knuckle down. And there is no doubt that the hosts have more experience of how to counteract a moving ball"
England v India
Wednesday August 1, 11:00
Live on Sky Sports
Rashid unlikely to play
The furore over Adil Rashid's selection may look a little silly if the spinner is not even picked. And that is very much on the cards given the pitch reports emanating from Edgbaston.
A typical English seamers' wicket is expected, despite the heatwave, so it would be a surprise if England played two spinners for the first time in a home Test in 25 years. Does Moeen Ali get the nod ahead of him, though?
Absolutely. Moeen, unlike Rashid, has played red-ball cricket this summer. Essex pacer Jamie Porter is a fun pick to work alongside James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Rowing over Rashid has at least taken the focus off England's other significant problem. Their batting. Doubts remain over Alastair Cook's form, Keaton Jennings's suitability and Dawid Malan's longevity.
Countering seam and swing has been a problem. Against Pakistan earlier in the season they failed to win a home series, drawing 1-1, and they have now lost four of their last ten Tests at home.
Significant has been the run-getting, or lack of it, of Cook and Joe Root. Strike out Cook's double ton against West Indies at Edgbaston and he averages 28 in those ten Tests. Root's conversion rate from 50 to 100 has dropped to 19 per cent from 30 until 2015.
India have good pace options
In our Test series preview we suggested that the heatwave could make this tour a home from home for India. Their spinners could wreck England. But if it doesn't turn as expected, are they a one-trick pony?
Probably not. Ignoring the threat of spin for a moment (we happen to reckon Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja are dangerous wherever, this is one of the most varied pace attacks India have assembled for an overseas tour.
Ishant Sharma has pace and bounce, Jasprit Bumrah likewise and can move it, Mohammad Shami is a classy swing exponent, Umesh Yadav is pure pace and Shardul Thakar is similarly slippery.
A bit like England, though, their batsmen must knuckle down. And there is no doubt that the hosts have more experience of how to counteract a moving ball.
So there is plenty of pressure on Virat Kohli to adapt and prove that he is the king of all kingdoms. Murali Vijay can show him how it's done and he has excellent numbers from the 2014 tour to give him confidence.
Edgbaston one for seam and swing
Never let it be said that it is only India who doctor home pitches. The groundstaff at Edgbaston have swamped the pitch with 47,000 litres of water in half-hour spells. Not surprisingly, the surface looks exactly like the sort which has consistently favoured bowlers. The first-innings average in the last ten is 274. Last summer, England's 514 against West Indies was a significant trend buster. It was only the second time more than 300 had been breached in the last nine.
Take a chance on tourists
England are [2.02] for the win. It could be argued that is a very good price indeed about a team which has lost only one of its last 13 at this venue. And against Asian sub-continent opposition who they traditionally do well against at home.
Yet there is a niggling doubtbthat taking those odds is the right thing to do. That's partly because of England's batting woes, India's potential with the ball and, most importantly, a toss bias. Bowling first is statistically the thing to do in recent years.
India are [3.30] for the win. Will that hold if they bowl first? Well, it could get much bigger pretty quickly in-play but it would be safe to assume that at least [3.0] will be available.
Blasters are value
Cook's double against the Windies last summer will make him a bet with some for top England first-innings bat. But we're not tempted by the 3/1 Betfair Sportsbook offer. Likewise the 13/5 about Root. The lower-order blasters like Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Moeen appeal at 6/1, 7/1 and 22/1 respectively.
Time not right for Kohli plunge
Kohli averaged only 13 on the 2014 tour of England. He is vastly improved, of course. He wasn't the world's best back then. But the 13/5 with Sportsbook for top India first-innings bat doesn't have our hearts beating faster. Instead Vijay and Chet Pujara at 7/2 the pair respectively appeal. We're suckers for foreign obduracy.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l
Back India bowling first to win first test at [3.0] or better (1pt)