The five-test match series between England and India for the Pataudi Trophy has got off to a fascinating start. The first test at Birmingham gave us a good insight into the relative strengths of the two sides in the fray and points at the possibility of a series win for India.
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India Expected to win the Series
Before the match at Birmingham that began on 4 August, several observers, including former England spinner Graeme Swann, had predicted that India would dominate to register their fourth test series win in England.
According to Swann, India’s spin bowling holds the key. During England’s tour of India earlier this year, the English batsmen were completely at sea against Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel who helped India to a 3-1 series win after England had registered a shock victory in the first match.
Surprise Exclusion of Ashwin
But Kohli surprised everyone by excluding Ashwin from the playing eleven for the test match at Birmingham. Opting for four pacemen on a traditionally seam-friendly wicket, the Indian skipper chose Jadeja over Ashwin as his spin option, clearly aiming to strengthen a batting line-up with a long tail.
Indian Pacemen Bowl Out England
England won the toss and elected to bat. The Indian fast bowlers exploited the conditions brilliantly. As expected, the England top order was wobbly, with the likes of Rory Burns, Dom Sibley and Zack Crawley out for very little.
After England was reduced to 66 for 3, Root was joined at the wicket by Bairstow who was added to strengthen England’s batting after Ben Stokes pulled out. The pair took the score to 138 for 3, but Bairstow’s wicket on the stroke of tea proved to be the turning point as England collapsed to be 183 all out.
India Take Substantial Lead
The vagaries of cricket in English conditions became apparent when India who was cruising along at 97 without loss lost quick wickets to be reduced to 112 for 4. The brittle middle order was exposed, with the trio of Pujara, Kohli and Rahane failing to deliver.
As events transpired, Kohli’s decision to include Jadeja was justified as the allrounder added to Rahul’s half-century with one of his own to help India to a substantial lead of 95 in a low scoring game.
Joe Root Stands Tall on Day Four
With two days left in the match, India was firmly in control. However, they had to contend with Joe Root who in defiant fourth-day innings scored 109 out of the England score of 303.
India, chasing 209 to win, finished the day at 52 for 1. Needing 157 more to go one up in the series, India would have fancied its chances on a wicket that appeared to have eased a bit. The rain had the last laugh, however, as the fifth day was washed out.
Positive Take-Aways for India
While both teams had positive takeaways from the match, India will be more confident ahead of the second test at Lord’s on 12 August. Their fast bowlers – particularly Bumrah who registered a five-for in the 2nd innings — have delivered as have their opening batsmen.
They would hope to plug the middle order gap with the addition of Prithvi Shaw and Suryakumar Yadav to the squad, later in the series.
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