England v India
Thursday 12 August 11.00
TV: Live on Sky Sports
Saved by Joe Root and the rain, England are set to take drastic action to try to discover a batting line-up which doesn't have them chasing their tails as soon as the ball starts to bend. It's probably worth the gamble because if they sat on their hands they'd almost certainly go on to lose the series.
Dominic Sibley, Zak Crawley and Dan Lawrence could all be axed. Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed would form the opening partnership, Jonny Bairstow would bat at No 3, Ollie Pope would return after injury and Moeen Ali would add all-round depth.
Moeen, expected to replace Sam Curran, is a class act who has been consistently shabbily treated by England. It is a big ask, though, for him to come in from playing in The Hundred and completely change his game.
A late injury scare for Stuart Broad and James Anderson might give Curran a reprieve, however, and promote Mark Wood. Jack Leach may be given a chance, too. Like Moeen, Leach is also poorly treated moving from bubble to bubble and barely playing. Saqib Mahmood has been called up as cover.
Possible XI Burns, Hameed, Bairstow, Root, Pope, Buttler, Moeen, S Curran, Robinson, Leach, Wood
Does Ashwin return?
India will no doubt feel the were robbed. They were perfectly poised to take a 1-0 lead going into the final day on 52 for one needing 209 for victory. With that in mind why bother changing their XI?
Why indeed. Unless they feel they made a rick by picking Ravi Jadeja instead of Ravi Ashwin. Jadeja bowled 16 wicketless overs and was expensive. With Ashwin as good a batter, would they at least not retain more control, let alone potency, if they returned to the best spinner in the world?
The stickability of Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul was a major boost. Before a ball was bowled India were shedding opening options almost on a weekly basis and the duo look set to bed down for the series. They look capable of seeing off the new ball, much to England's frustration.
Concerns remain about Virat Kohli's form. A golden duck at Trent Bridge failed to rubbish suggestions that England have his number.
Probable XI Rohit, Rahul, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Pant, Jadeja, Thakur, Shami, Bumrah, Siraj
Lord's is a changeable track. Early on it often looks like a bowlers' paradise before flattening out and getting better. The key is for captains to hold their nerve under overcast skies - which are predicted for the first morning - if they win the toss and bat first. Just get through the first hour.
New Zealand did just that earlier in the summer posting 378. It's not a given, though. The first-innings scores that preceded that total read: 258- 85-107-184-123.
In the last seven Tests at HQ there have been two draws. Expanding the study period another five years returns 13 results in 17. India were thumped at the venue in 2018, being rolled for 107 and 123.
A runs strategy should be based on shorting England's innings total when a batting pair is established. They fold like battered deckchairs. If they manage to get to the second new ball with half the team still to come that would be perfect. No rain is forecast for the five days.
India have edge
There is little to split the pair on the match odds market after game one and if India take the lead at Lord's they will probably go into the third match as favourites. That would be the first time in history that has happened between the two.
England are 2.3211/8, India 2.526/4 and the draw 5.609/2. It is hard not recognise Kohli's men as the value because their bowling is settled and more dangerous, likewise their batting. It's not rocket science.
England's changes will prove either to be inspired or that of a panicked team suffering chronic low-confidence.
Root and Kohli have both been boosted by Betfair Sportsbook to top bat in their first-innings. Root is 12/5 and - get this - Kohli at 3/1. Sportsbook are rating the India captain the same chance as Rohit. That's a big risk but it shows they reckon the India superstar is a busted flush at the moment.
Ollie Robinson catches the eye at 3/1 for top England bowler, particularly if Broad misses out. Robinson took seven wickets in the match against New Zealand and he looks the real deal.
Moeen, a constant thorn in India's side, could play with reckless abandon. And that's when he's at his most dangerous. We note the 14/1 for man of the math with Sportsbook. The 12/1 he top scores for England in first-innings makes sense, too, as does the whopping 50/1 about Sam Curran topping. England's top-order being blown away is hardly the stuff of fantasy.
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