After a dire period for the white ball side, England and BazBall returns for a five Test tour of India. We've taken a look at the current lay of the land for both sides, the finalised squads and given our predictions for the first Test in Hyderabad (Thursday 04:00).
It's not been a great four months or so for the England national team, first failing to defend their Cricket World Cup title in spectacularly bad style, before a double series loss in the West Indies. Ben Stokes has been away to have surgery, in a last attempt to fix that troublesome knee injury, which has consigned him to the role of a specialist batsman. It appears too soon for him to test out his bowling here and looking at the wickets ahead, this is going to be a pure test of spin.
The intro to the test has been dominated by the loss of star batters Harry Brook and Virat Kohli, which has freed up opportunities for others but will deny us of seeing two of the most talented players of the current era.
There has also been a stink kicked up over the Visa issues of young Somerset spinner Shoaib Bashir, who is of Pakistani descent, with some outlets calling for a complete boycott of the match as a result, although this now appears to have been resolved, meaning we should see cricket as normal in the early hours of Thursday morning.
But can this England team continue their flamboyant 'BazBall' style, or will the travails of the last few months get to this group, just as it did in India during the World Cup?
Ben Stokes has gone spin crazy in this first test in Hyderabad, with four spinners (including Joe Root) in the starting eleven and only Mark Wood as a recognised quick bowler. The loss of Harry Brook, who has returned home for personal reasons, meant Dan Lawrence has been called up to the squad but he hasn't made the starting line up. Ben Foakes resumes keeping duties, with Jonny Bairstow free to concentrate on his batting.
England XI: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes (c), Ben Foakes (wk), Rehan Ahmed, Tom Hartley, Mark Wood, Jack Leach
India have had their own selection dilemmas, after the sudden withdrawal from the squad by talismanic batter Virat Kohli. The 35-year-old is missing the opening two tests due to personal reasons and this has meant a call up for Rajat Patidar, who has a formidable record in first-class cricket and scored 151 off 158 balls against the England Lions in Ahmedabad.
India (from): Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, KS Bharat (wk), Dhruv Jurel (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Avesh Khan, Rajat Patidar
India are huge favourites to win the series at 1/5, with England all the way out at 13/2.
In terms of the opening test, the hosts are slightly longer in the betting at 2/5, with the tourists prices at 13/5. The draw is available at 10/1, should you think this will go the full five day duration.
India Highest Opening Partnership (1st Inns) - 4/6
Ben Duckett and Zak Crawley performed admirably during the recent Ashes series but this is a whole new test in foreign and unforgiving conditions.
Crawley struggled on his last tour of India and won't be able to take the fight to likes of Ashwin and Jadeya. The same goes for Duckett, who likes to play across the line and will be ripe for a LBW here.
I'm taking the much more experienced pairing of Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill to outscore their English counterparts here.
Joe Root to score a 1st Innings 50 - 11/8
One man who is proven on the sub-continent is England's star man Joe Root. The 33-year-old averages over 50 in India and was their leading runscorer back in 2021. There will be some huge pressure on his shoulders this time round, with the loss of Brook and doubts lingering over Ben Stokes fitness to bat long periods.
I think Root can handle this extra burden and like his chances at over evens to register a half century (at least) in the first innings.
Rehan Ahmed England Top Wicket Taker (1st Inns) - 9/4
It's obvious to anyone with even a mild interest in Test cricket that this match will be won or lost against the spinning ball.
That means that the top wicket taker markets should also be dominated by spinners and I'm taking Rehan Ahmed to be England's star man in the first innings.
Unlike Jack Leach and Tom Hartley, who possess excellent control with the finger spin, Ahmed can move the ball both ways and prodigiously, meaning he has a far bigger chance of taking wickets when the pitch hasn't fully deteriorated.
With that in mind, I like him at 9/4 to be England's leading wicket taker in the first innings.
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