England v India
Thursday 9 August 11.00
Live on Sky Sports
England unbalanced without Stokes
To use the football parlance, England are 'buzzing' with a 1-0 lead in their pocket. Having essentially come from behind twice at Edgbaston, they will reckon they have dealt a significant psychological blow to an India team tormented by their record on tour.
Still, selection issues could redress the balance. The loss of all-rounder Ben Stokes is hugely significant, not least because it was he who turned the match in England's favour in the last dig in Birmingham, Stokes sets the tone and balances the team. Chris Woakes, his replacement, is admirable but he doesn't have the same stardust.
The second switch is Dawid Malan making way for Ollie Pope, the 20-year-old Surrey starlet. Pope is hugely talented and one for the future. The present? Well, he's only played 15 first-class matches and despite big runs it's hard for us to start putting money down without some sort of return at the top level.
Pope looks certain to play unless the heatwave convinces England to pick two spinners. Adil Rashid retains his place but Moeen Ali is in the running because the batting would ne be weakened.
Pujara and extra spinner needed for India
India were hugely disappointing in the first Test. Having fought back admirably in the first innings and exposed England's weakness against spin, they had a golden chance to go and hit 350. But they fluffed it.
In the context of the series it was a major concern. No one other than Virat Kohli seemingly had a clue how to counter a bit of pace and movement. They are damned if that's the best technical display they can come up with. It was frankly a nonsense to claim Test cricket was alive and well with such ineptitude on display (both teams to be fair).
The tourists will have to get their picks right. Chet Pujara, who has solid first-class experience in England, must surely play in place of one of the two dashers - Shikhar Dhawan or KL Rahul. And they need a second spinner instead of Hardik Pandya to give them a significant edge over England in at least one department.
Kuldeep Yadav, who has more ticks up his sleeve, or Ravi jadeja are in line. Jadeja might just get the nod as India fret about that batting line-up.
Pitch should take spin
There is much debate about whether the wicket will take turn. Eoin Morgan, the Middlesex man, should know. He said: "Lord's is a ground with a magnificent pitch, but with the way the weather has been, it is so difficult to keep the moisture not only in the pitch but actually in the square," Morgan said. "I think it will be quite similar to Edgbaston. You will have to assume it will turn and probably reverse swing will play a big part as well."
That's a worry for England. In 2016 they were razed by Pakistan's Yasir Shah on a spinner. And, of course, in May they were beaten by the same side although that was down to Spring swing. In Middlesex's last Championship game at the venue at the end of last month Jeet Patel claimed five third-innings wickets. But Morgan's pitch report was spot on.
Chaser in a world of trouble
England are 2.0621/20, India 3.052/1 and the draw is 5.04/1. These odds are pretty much bang on the same as Edgbaston. Why? Well, the market knows that the toss is key in terms of bias and team characteristics.
Only three teams in 21 have won bowling first. But more importantly, neither England nor India appear to have the gumption to bat without panic when conditions get testing. The chaser in this Test already looks doomed.
Just like Birmingham, a total of around 200 to go after looks like Everest. So although we have a sniff for India because of their superior spin options, we have to wait for the flip.
Showers are forecast for day one. That could make batting slightly trickier than it normally is. India would be foolish to make a decision to bowl first with grey skies.
Root to the fore
When there are doubts about Alastair Cook's eye, Keaton Jennings' technique and Pope's experience, it is hard to look past Joe Root for top England first-innings runscorer. He averages 52 there and only Cook has more runs in the last ten years. Jonny Bairstow looks in nick but his record of 38 is modest. Root gets a 12/5 quote.
Root to the fore
What price Kohli then for top India first-innings runscorer? It's 2/1, which is mighty short but how could it be any bigger? No other top order bloke had a scooby. There is value, though. Pujara is rated at 5/1 and he is capable of dropping anchor.