England vs India, Tests: Presenting the key player battles

Two of cricket’s heavyweights England and India are set to battle it out in a five-match Test series, starting August 4. The Indian cricket team hasn’t quite enjoyed playing in England, being outplayed in the last three tours here. Besides a historic 1-0 win in 2007, India have faltered by margins of 0-4, 1-3, and 1-4 in their last three series here on English soil. India have managed just two wins from 14 Test matches across 2011, 2014, and 2018 respectively. India need a collective performance as a unit and the onus will be on skipper Virat Kohli to lead the line.
In the ICC World Test Championship final against New Zealand at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, Team India got the balance wrong and were outplayed by a settled Kiwi outfit. Once again, India suffered a telling loss on English soil. Going into the Test series against England, who themselves can be vulnerable, India will start as the underdogs. Both teams have exciting personnel on offer and in seaming and swinging conditions, a severe challenge awaits Kohli & Co. 
In this article, we look at the key players’ battles which can have a serious impact on how the series pans out.

James Anderson vs Virat Kohli

The first battle that instantly comes to mind is veteran pacer James Anderson versus Indian skipper Kohli. With 617 Test scalps under his belt, Anderson is a leader when it comes to making inroads. The right-arm pacer has claimed 387 wickets at 24.18 at home, besides taking 84 scalps against India. He averages just 23.66 against India on home soil. Kohli on the other hand has amassed 7,547 runs in Tests, including 727 in England at 36.35. As per Cricmetric, Kohli has faced 565 deliveries against Anderson, scoring 236 runs. Anderson has dismissed Kohli on five occasions so far. In England, in the 2014 Test series, Anderson bossed the show. He dismissed Kohli four times as the latter managed just 19 runs from 50 balls. However, in 2018, Kohli fared well. He scored 114 runs from 270 deliveries, playing 210 dots and hitting 13 fours. Anderson was unable to dismiss the star batter. Anderson can be lethal with his ball swinging both ways and Kohli’s off stump is what the pacer will target.

Ben Stokes vs Ajinkya Rahane

England all-rounder Ben Stokes will be aiming to make his presence felt against India as he is expected to recover from the finger injury. Stokes has upped his impact in Test cricket of late and is a true match-winner. His exploits against Ajinkya Rahane will be worth watching. Stokes has claimed 163 Test scalps, including 34 against India. In England, Stokes has accounted for 21 wickets against India from six Tests. Meanwhile, Rahane enjoys batting in challenging conditions outside Asia and will be pivotal in India’s middle-order. Rahane, who has 4,647 runs in Tests, has gone on to register 556 runs on English soil against the Three Lions. He has one ton and four fifties. When it comes to the head-to-head battle between the two players, Rahane amassed just seven runs from 24 balls in 2014 against Stokes in England. In the 2018 Test series here, he was dismissed twice by Stokes, who conceded 43 runs from 98 balls against the Indian vice-captain. Rahane needs to be patient and make sure he thwarts off Stokes who can be significant with the old ball.

Joe Root vs Ravichandran Ashwin

When it comes to facing spin, England’s Joe Root is a fine example. He is a top player in Test cricket and will be the cynosure of all eyes in terms of scoring the bulk of runs against India. Root will be hoping to show his mettle against premier Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. The latter will be confident after taking a six-for for Surrey in a County match recently against Somerset. Ash is expected to lead India’s spin show. Overall, Root has managed 360 runs against Ashwin, facing 583 deliveries. He has been dismissed on five occasions. In England, Root has scored 71 runs from 116 deliveries against Ashwin, being dismissed just once. It’s safe to say that Root has done well against Ashwin and will be aiming to be on top. Root has 8,714 runs out of which 4,445 have come at home. He has scored 837 runs against India in England at a phenomenal average of 59.78. Ash has taken 14 out of his 88 wickets in England at 32.92. He needs to be more productive this time around and offer more variations. Root is a player Ashwin hasn’t quite enjoyed bowling to.

Mohammed Shami vs Jonny Bairstow

Mohammed Shami can be dangerous in England with his swing and seam and his knack of picking up wickets can be crucial. Shami will need to control his line and length as he often tries too hard to give away freebies. The pacer bowled well against England in 2018 and with more experience under his belt, the offerings are expected to be higher. Shami will hope to keep England senior batter Jonny Bairstow at bay. In the 2018 Test series in England, Shami dismissed Bairstow twice, conceding 73 runs from 102 deliveries. Bairstow also managed 11 fours at a strike rate of 71.6. The two players enjoyed the battle as Bairstow looked to be aggressive against Shami. The Indian pacer has 184 Test wickets out of which 31 have come against England. He has taken a total of 21 wickets against England in England. Bairstow has mustered 4,197 runs, including 619 against India. He has 230 runs in England against India at 25.55. Bairstow can be vulnerable to the Indian bowlers and Shami, in particular, will hope to trounce the former.

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