It's the first of the five-match Test series from Wednesday at Trent Bridge and, with a low scoring game in prospect, Ed Hawkins is laying the draw...
"There is rain around for every day bar the first. But it's not persistent enough for us to worry about threatening a result"
England v India
Wednesday 4 August 11.00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Stokes rocks England
England have been rocked by the loss of Ben Stokes, their talismanic all-rounder who balances the team. They lose brilliance with bat and ball, of course, but their tempo and spirit, too. The manner of his withdrawal - for mental health reasons - could rock a group feeling insecure after a series loss to New Zealand earlier in the summer.
They could replace him 'like-for-like' with Sam Curran or Craig Overton. Or they could plump for an extra batsman in Jonny Bairstow. With Ollie Robinson available again, England may go for the latter option reckoning Robinson can emerge as a bowling all-rounder.
Bairstow may be required because, frankly, the top-order is poor. The opening combination of Rory Burns and Dom Sibley is insecure while Zak Crawley and Dan Lawrence are unconvincing. A lot of runs and pressure rests on Joe Root's shoulders. Jos Buttler could be involved in plenty of rescue jobs
Possible XI Sibley, Burns, Crawley, Root, Lawrence, Buttler, S Curran, Robinson, Leach, Broad, Anderson
India are acclimatised. There is no doubt about that after losing the World Test Championship Final to the Kiwis. They've endured quarantines, isolation, positive Covid tests, injuries and squad changes.
The big conundrum is the opening slot. Shubmann Gill has gone home. Mayank Agarwal is injured. That means KL Rahul, who was being primed for a middle-order role, may have to open. Or all-rounder Hanuma Vihari could do it.
Like England, the pressure is all on Virat Kohli with doubts about the top-order's ability to play the moving ball. Rishabh Pant, as he did in the winter, will look to blast India back into a game or into the ascendancy.
With the ball there is a lot to like. Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah should cause plenty of problems. Later in the summer India can pair spinners Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja.
Possible XI Rohit, Kl Rahul, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Vihari, Pant, Ashwin, Shami, Ishant, Bumrah
Pictures of the wicket at Trent Bridge have done the rounds on social media. It looks very green. But that's because the groundstaff have yet to cut the grass off so a bit of kidology is going on.
The numbers speak for themselves. The average first-innings score in the last 12 Tests is 301. And with eight of those matches won by the side batting first, a monster score is not required. India won on this ground in 2018 by 203 runs despite posting only 329.
There is rain around for every day bar the first. But it's not persistent enough for us to worry about threatening a result. Instead it adds to the evidence that batting will be tricky. The runs lines could be pitched at the 275 mark over/under at 2.01/1 in the first dig and whoever bats first it looks like a short.
Lay the draw
England are 2.9215/8, India 4.10 and the draw, shortening by the hour, is 2.3411/8. Early doors in the series, England will expect to pressure the India batting so they are not the worst bet in the world. But the wisest play is on the stalemate.
We're looking to lay that with seam and swing and batting foibles to the fore. Remember, England's batting was shaky against the Kiwis while India have consistently struggled in these conditions. In England, South Africa and New Zealand they have lost nine of their last 11. James Anderson and Stuart Broad will be itching to get among India on one of their favourite surfaces.
With no rain on day one, the draw price might not go below 2.01/1. And it may pay to take it now with wickets expected. It's worth remembering that a score of anything over 250 in the first match innings is more than competitive.
England with Stokes
Win rate 43%
Bat Ave 30.33
Bowl ave 31.6
Win rate 41%
Bat ave 35.6
Bowl ave 29.6
Root is 5/2 favourite for top England runscorer in the first-innings with Sportsbook. Only Buttler catches the eye as a potential rival but 6/1 is not much fun. Curran might be worth a few pence at 50/1.
For India, Kohli is 9/4. He averages more than 20 runs more than Chet Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in SA, NZ and England. Pujara is 7/2 and Rahane, who topped against New Zealand in the WTC Final, is 5/1. Pant is likable at 6s.
Anderson and Broad are both 2/1 for top England wicket-taker. Robinson might be underrated at 5/1.
*Is King Kohli a wager for runs - analysis here
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Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. Includes Hawk-Eye column p-l