Preview: England vs India 2021 Series

In the past few years, India has been the best touring side in the world in Tests. But, this series brings a huge challenge as India will be facing England in England, a place where India hasn’t won a series in the past 14 years! Can India beat England in England and end the drought of 14 years? Let’s find out in this series preview!

Overview

In the 2018 series, it was a close contest, though England won it 4-1! However, if you notice, the margins were very close. The difference between India and England previously was the tail-enders. India’s tail-enders were pretty poor batsmen compared to England’s tail-enders, and that extra 30-40 runs helped England get over the line. Also if you had noticed in the lost overseas series recently, India has failed to dismantle the tail quite easily. In the 2020 NZ series, it was Kyle Jamieson; against England in 2018, it was Sam Curran and against South Africa in 2018, it was Vernon Philander. So India’s inability to knock over the tail is a big minus and that could perhaps give an extra advantage to England. If you look from England’s perspective, they’re pretty much cooked up in terms of batting point of view. Without Ben Stokes, the middle order might misclick a lot as we’ve seen in the series against New Zealand.

England – Preview:

England’s batting certainly has been a huge concern ever since Cook’s retirement! Now, probably the biggest concern is on England’s middle order and a lot of pressure will be on Jos Buttler after Stokes withdrew from this series. Apart from that, the number 3 slot has not been filled ever since Jonathan Trott’s retirement. Possibly Bairstow or Crawley could bat in this position in this series, in my opinion, Crawley is a better option at number 3 ahead of Jonny Bairstow. If both fail, then it’ll be Joe Root who forcefully has to bat at number 3. This position is something where England could finally fulfil in this series!

As far as bowling is concerned, England’s mainstream bowlers remain the same as before with Broad and Anderson. England’s best chance of winning the series is by suffocating India’s batting and the best bet to do that job will be on Anderson and Broad. Also, Ben Stokes’ absence will be a huge miss for England but someone who could possibly nullify his absence is obviously the previous series’s MOTS, Sam Curran. Probably Sam Curran would love to cement his place in the Test team. For the spin department, it’d be Jack Leach of course, but however, if you want better depth in the batting, someone like Dom Bess would help a lot. Joe Root of course would be the main man for England when it comes to batting, probably the best bet against Indian bowlers with the records he has against India in the past.

India – Preview:

India on the other hand has an outstanding batting order with no holes whatsoever. However, the biggest concern for Indian batting is playing in English conditions as none of the batsmen apart from Virat Kohli average above 35. With Mayank Agarwal out with an injury, KL Rahul would love to cement his place in the Test team after a wonderful hundred against the county XI.

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Once again, the biggest concern for the Indian batting order will be playing Anderson and Broad in England. In the past two tours, Broad and Anderson had kept the Indian batting order silent, so it would be interesting to see how well Indian batsmen manage to nullify the threat of Broad and Anderson. In the bowling department though, the pacers should pitch much fuller as compared to the WTC Final in England as it was pretty easy to score off the deliveries which hit the deck. For the spin department, a lot relies on Ashwin and Jadeja in the middle phases of the game. As I said before, India must knock off the tail quickly to reduce the possibility of the extra 30-40 runs.

Key Matchups:

1. Virat Kohli vs James Anderson

This would be an interesting battle as the veteran fast bowler has bagged Kohli’s wicket 5 times so far, however, he hasn’t dismissed the Indian skipper since 2014 when the latter had a woeful tour but has come back in wonderful fashion with 196 runs with no dismissals ever since 2014. Although, Anderson got a couple of nicks from Kohli but unfortunately couldn’t grab the prized wicket ever since. Kohli averages a wonderful 47.2 against James Anderson though Jimmy has picked him 5 times so far. 

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2. Joe Root vs Ravichandran Ashwin

Again, an interesting battle right here, with India’s best bowler by far in the past 10 years against England skipper, Joe Root. However, this battle has been one-sided, with Joe Root scoring 360 runs against Ashwin who has picked up the wicket of England’s skipper Joe Root 5 times. Root averages a whopping 72 against Ashwin (the most for any batsman who has faced 100+ balls against Ashwin). It could be said that Joe Root is one of the best players against spinners in the modern world of course. 

Conclusion: 

This should be a close series. I would predict a result of 2-2 just because of Stokes’ absence in the Test team. That would be the biggest threat for England and might be the difference between England winning the series. Apart from that, probably, Joe Root would score the most runs in the series and close competition between Kohli and Rahane as well. With the ball, I’d predict Ishant Sharma or James Anderson or Stuart Broad having played in these conditions for so long. This would be a really interesting series, let’s see whether who triumphs over the other.

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