INDIA TOUR OF ENGLAND, 2018
Eight of the top 20 batsmen in the ICC’s rankings will be on show in this marquee series. © Getty
With England currently gripped with World Cup fever, the fact that the top two teams in ODI cricket begin a three-match series on Thursday (July 12) at Trent Bridge is being somewhat drowned out by matters in Russia. Nevertheless, the upcoming series is a vital tuning-up exercise for both India and England ahead of next summer’s cricket World Cup in this country.
There is little to choose between the two teams right now. England, ranked top of the ODI rankings, have won ten of their last 12 bilateral series while India have won their last nine. Eight of the top 20 batsmen in the ICC’s rankings will be on show and despite India and England being without their best one-day seamers in Jasprit Bumrah and Chris Woakes, there is enough quality on show with the ball too.
In the last meeting between the two sides, in India in early 2017, the home side emerged victorious 2-1 with the series decided by the English bowlers’ inability to restrict India’s batsmen on flat wickets. Although the home side’s bowlers are not the finished article, they have improved markedly since then. Woakes’ absence though will be a big loss given his role with the new ball and at the death.
The last series between the teams in England in 2014 resulted in a thumping 3-1 victory for India but that will have little bearing on this match-up. Eoin Morgan’s team is unrecognisable from that 2014 version in both personnel, approach and style.
With England enjoying a rare heatwave, the pitches for the three games at Trent Bridge, Lord’s and Headingley will be drier than normal which should make spin a key facet of the game for both teams. Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali routed Australia during England’s 5-0 victory last month but should find things harder against India’s superb middle order while Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal showed what they can do during India’s T20I series victory.
The spinners might be the only bowlers looking forward to the first game of the series at Trent Bridge. Given the strength of the two sides’ batting line-ups – they have the two highest averages per wicket in ODI cricket since the last World Cup – and the probable lack of seam or swing, there might be some nervous pace bowlers in both camps.
England amassed a world record 481 against Australia in Nottingham during the third ODI and it’s likely to be another high scoring game. Joe Root played down the chance of any more records being broken in this match – “It’s dangerous to start thinking too far ahead,” he said – but given the quality of the players on show it can’t be ruled out. That would be a story to rival anything the football World Cup can throw up.
When: Thursday July 11, 2018 at 12:30 PM local (5:00 PM IST)
Where: Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
What to expect: The Trent Bridge pitch should be flat, true and perfect for batting although there might be some spin if the surface is dry. The forecast is set fair with temperatures expected to be in the mid to high 20s.
The dilemma faced by England is how they will fit Ben Stokes back into the team which defeated Australia 5-0 last month. The most vulnerable batsman looks to be Alex Hales at number three although he scored a big hundred in the third ODI at Trent Bridge. Whichever way England go, it would be harsh on someone. Following his rest during the T20I series, Mark Wood will return to take the new ball alongside David Willey, with Stokes and Liam Plunkett proving the other seam options.
Probable XI: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, David Willey, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood.
The biggest worry for India is going to be fitness of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who missed the last T20I through a stiff back. Rohit Sharma confirmed that he will be assessed by the physio following the training session on Wednesday, before adding: “looks fine to me”. If Bhuvneshwar misses out, India’s fast bowling attack will include Umesh Yadav and one out of Shardul Thakur and Siddarth Kaul. Thakur is coming into the series on the back of fine showing for India A in England.
Probable XI: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina/Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Siddarth Kaul/Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Umesh Yadav
What they said:
“It is a good marker to see where we are at. It’s a great opportunity for us to play a strong Indian team who will pose different challenges to what Australia did at the start of the summer. A very different look to their bowling attack, for example. It’s a very exciting time.” – Joe Root on the challenge posed by India
“It was important for me to strike form as early as possible. After IPL, I haven’t played [much] cricket, so it was important for me to strike form as early as I could.” – Rohit Sharma on the need for him to play a big knock early on a long tour.