England v India: Visitors look for redemption as Test series begins

image sourceGetty Imagesimage captionVirat Kohli-led India will face off in the Test series against Joe Root's England

Virat Kohli was the top scorer in the five-match Test series when India toured England in 2018. He scored 593 runs at an average of 59.30.

But his dream run failed to avoid a humiliating 4-1 defeat against a resurgent English side. This was a familiar script since the Pataudi Trophy – named after the illustrious Indian cricketing family, and to be contested when the sides meet in Tests in England – was inaugurated in 2007.

India won the first edition under Rahul Dravid, but were beaten in England in 2011, 2014 and 2018. The visitors will be looking to redeem themselves when they take on Joe Root's side at Trent Bridge on Thursday.

The series will also mark the start of the International Cricket Council's second World Test Championship. India lost the final of the inaugural edition to New Zealand in Southampton in June as batsmen struggled against the moving ball.

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England would have watched that match keenly and are likely to serve up a green-top wicket to the visitors. India's batting woes start at the top – opener Shubman Gill has returned home after an injury in a practice match, while another opening candidate, Mayank Agarwal, has been ruled out of the first Test with concussion after being hit by a bouncer in the nets on Monday.

Right-hander KL Rahul is likely to return to partner Rohit Sharma, and will have a point to prove after India preferred Gill over him in their home series against England earlier this year, and also in the Test series in Australia in 2020-21.

Rahul would have played in the third Test in Australia but had to fly home because of an injury.

image sourceGetty Imagesimage captionRohit Sharma could open for the first time in England in a Test match

They will be tested against the experienced English pace attack, which includes James Anderson, Mark Wood and Stuart Broad. The middle order, which struggled against the Kiwis, also needs to shake off the disappointment of losing the World Test Championship.

Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, who form the bedrock of the middle order, failed to score heavily against the Kiwis. Pujara's slow batting was particularly criticised, after he scored 15 from 80 balls in the second innings when India were trying to set a target for New Zealand.

Then there is the curious case of wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant – his aggressive strokeplay won the series for India in Australia.

However, the same style makes him prone to losing his wicket to rash shots. But that is just Pant for you – he will play no other way, aggression is his style. India just hope that his risky shots continue to evade fielders, especially in the moments when India will need him to dig his heels in.

In comparison, India's bowling looks much stronger with experienced pace bowlers Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj ,while their spin attack relies on Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

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image sourceGetty Imagesimage captionAswin is essential to India's spin attack

Kohli played both spinners against the Kiwis and opted for three pace bowlers, but the strategy did not work as the ever-reliable Bumrah looked rusty and it made things worse for Kohli.

It will be interesting to see if he repeats this combination or drops one of the spinners. Pundits say he should go with a pace-heavy attack, but he is known to trust his instincts.

Ishant is the most experienced among the bowlers and his record in England has been great – he has taken 46 wickets in 13 Tests.

Ashwin's overall record against the hosts is also impressive, with 88 wickets in 19 matches.

But it is the young Siraj who can be the pick of the bowlers. He has been bowling fast in practice matches and has shown great control over his line and length. He will be hoping that he has done enough to impress his captain for a spot in the playing XI.

However, it is not just India who are looking to regain form and find the right balance before the first Test.

England's preparation suffered a setback after star player Ben Stokes withdrew from the series to focus on his mental health.

His absence will hurt the balance of the side as it is difficult to replace an all-rounder of his calibre, so England will be either a bowler or a batsman short.

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image sourceGetty Imagesimage captionIf selected, Haseeb Hameed can stabilise England's batting line-up

Dominic Sibley, Rory Burns and Zak Crawley form the top order, but they will have to forget their recent series loss to New Zealand.

The trio did not bat well as a unit, often putting pressure on captain Root to anchor England's innings from number four. Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler's return will add some firepower in the middle order.

But Haseeb Hameed, provided he plays, could give stability to England's batting. Hameed played three Tests in India as a teenager in 2016 before struggling for form, but has earned a recall.

The hosts will miss the injured Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes but still have enough steam in their pace attack, and with spinner Jack Leach in the mix, they will ask some tough questions of Indian batsmen.

But as both teams start the series following defeats, the key lies in finding the right balance with the resources they have at their disposal.

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