Saturday, 25 September, 2021

England, India clash in first Test of new WTC cycle

England, India clash in first Test of new WTC cycle
England’s captain Joe Root (left) and India’s captain Virat Kohli pose with the Pataudi Trophy and the Test series trophy at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground in England on Monday. – AFP PHOTO

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The first Test between England and India today at Trent Bridge will mark the beginning of the 2023 ICC World Test Championship cycle, reports ICC.

India have had to deal with injury woes yet again on the England tour with Mayank Agarwal out of the first Test due to a concussion. Shubman Gill, Washington Sundar, and Avesh Khan are already ruled out of the whole series. However, Prithvi Shaw and Suryakumar Yadav are flying to England as replacements will give the visitors options for the second Test.

Rohit Sharma is now likely to open with KL Rahul, who has proved a strong contender after a hundred in the practice game against County Select XI. It also remains to be seen whether India will go in with two frontline spinners or think about adding a fourth pacer with the conditions in England favouring the seamers.

England, on the other hand, have a void to fill in the absence of Ben Stokes, who brought balance to the side. Sam Curran is the leading man in Stokes’ absence who can offer the same set of skills with the bat and ball. The hosts will also be without the services of Jofra Archer, who is recovering from an elbow surgery.

The wicket at Trent Bridge looks bowler-friendly with plenty of grass and with both teams rich in pace options, it might be a tightly-fought contest.

The two sides went head-to-head in a four-match Test series hosted by India in February this year. In the final Test, India dominated England with a comprehensive win by an innings and 25 runs, thus taking the series 3-1.

England batting first, posted 205 with Ben Stokes scoring the only fifty in the first innings. India then went on to post a lead of 160 with the help of Rishabh Pant’s 101 and Washington Sundar’s unbeaten 96* which proved more than enough for the visitors.

In England’s second innings, Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin spun the web around the visitors as both took five wickets each. England were bowled out for 135 with Dan Lawrence scoring the highest – 50 off 95 balls.

England captain Joe Root said: “It will be nice to start strongly from a personal point of view. I know if I go out there and score big runs, it gives us opportunities to win the game and those things look after themselves. But Test cricket is not about you, you as an individual. It’s about winning for England and that contributes something bigger than yourself. That’s the mindset going into this series. Hopefully, we can outplay India.”

India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahana said: “Playing away from home is always a challenge. It’s all about putting our best foot forward and getting used to the conditions quickly. I thought in 2018 we played very good cricket but the result didn’t go our way. This is the World Test Championship and so, every Test counts. Rather than focusing on the series, we will focus on one game at a time.”