England v India: Bairstow set for another chance as undercooked hosts face tough task

By Sports Desk August 03, 2021

Jonny Bairstow looks set to get a chance to revive his Test career on Wednesday – against the very opponents who looked to have ended it earlier this year.

England batsman Bairstow recorded three ducks in four innings as Joe Root's side fell to a 3-1 series loss in India and the Yorkshireman did not feature in the home red-ball series against New Zealand in June.

However, he is back in the fold for the five-match rubber against Virat Kohli's men, which begins at Trent Bridge, and a thigh injury to Ollie Pope looks to have created an opening in the middle order.

Ben Stokes' absence as the star all-rounder takes time out to look after his mental health and allow an injured finger to heal means Bairstow's experience might win the day over Dan Lawrence when it comes to deciding who should bat at number five below Root.

The lack of Stokes also means Bairstow and Lawrence could both play, although that would see Root restricted to a four-man bowling attack.

A greater degree of firepower will probably be required against a fine India side, although the tourists' strength in all departments has served to undermine their preparations.

Opener Mayank Agarwal will miss the opening Test with concussion after being struck on the head by a Mohammed Siraj bouncer in the nets.

Shubman Gill is already absent with a shin injury and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane strongly suggested India would be loathe to move Cheteshwar Pujara up from his pivotal number three slot. It could mean Abhimanyu Easwaran stepping in to open despite not playing any first-class cricket for 15 months.

Although far from an ideal scenario, the combination of a heavily loaded international schedule and the demands of quarantine and bio-secure bubbles means plenty of players – including much of England's brittle batting order – are heading into what should be an elite-level contest somewhat undercooked.

England look to their Mr Dependable once more

James Anderson's incredible career as the most prolific seam bowler in Test history looked to be reaching the end in 2019, when calf problems restricted him to just four overs in that year's Ashes series.

Since then, he has claimed 42 wickets for England at 23, breaking through the 600-wicket barrier in the process. As pacemen Jofra Archer and Ollie Stone nurse their latest injuries, the 39-year-old Anderson remains as important to his country's prospects of success as ever.

Preparation the key for Kohli

Anderson resuming his duel with master batsman Kohli is once again sure to be a highlight of the series. The India captain has been in England with his squad for two months now, with the World Test Championship final defeat to New Zealand at least clearing the way for the sort of acclimatisation and preparation seldom enjoyed for away tours in the modern era.

Kohli averages 35.63 in Tests in England, with two centuries and three centuries to his name in 11 matches. Although a perfectly respectable record, he would love to bring it closer to his returns in Australia – conditions that a haul of six centuries and four fifties (average 54.08) show he has unquestionably tamed.

Related items

  • Pujara returns to India squad for rescheduled England Test Pujara returns to India squad for rescheduled England Test

    Cheteshwar Pujara has been rewarded with a return to the India squad for the rearranged fifth Test against England in July after a fine spell in the County Championship.

    India, led by Virat Kohli, were 2-1 up in the five-match Test series in England before the tourists were unable to field a team due to coronavirus-related concerns in September.

    The one-off Test starts at Edgbaston on July 1, following a four-day warm-up game against Leicestershire on June 24, and India have named their 17-man red-ball squad.

    Pujara was dropped for the home Test series against Sri Lanka but has been reinstated after managing 720 runs in eight innings for Sussex – including four centuries – in County Championship Division Two.

    Ravindra Jadeja is also part of the touring party despite pulling out of the ongoing Indian Premier League due to a rib injury, while Hanuma Vihari and Shubman Gill retained their spots.

    Rohit Sharma will lead the Test side after Kohli, who remains in the squad, stepped down as captain following the 2-1 series defeat to South Africa earlier this year.

    Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami will lead the bowling attack, which includes Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur and the uncapped Prasidh Krishna.

    Ajinkya Rahane was not available for selection after sustaining a hamstring injury, while openers Mayank Agarwal and Priyank Panchal were the other two left out from the Sri Lanka series.

    Meanwhile, Rohit, Kohli and Bumrah were all rested for the home five-match T20I series against South Africa, which starts on June 9.

    KL Rahul will skipper the white-ball side in Sharma's absence, with fast bowler Umran Malik handed a maiden call-up after impressing in the IPL with Sunrisers Hyderabad.

    The experienced Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik return to the international limited-overs squad, while spin duo Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal make their comebacks after taking the IPL by storm.

    Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda and Shreyas Iyer all retain their spots, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar heading a bowling attack that includes Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan and Arshdeep Singh.

    India’s Test squad: Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain) Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishabh Pant (wk), KS Bharat (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Prasidh Krishna.

    India’s T20I squad: KL Rahul (captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (vice-captain)(wk), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Hardik Pandya, Venkatesh Iyer, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik.

  • David James backs 'exceptional' England goalkeeper Pickford David James backs 'exceptional' England goalkeeper Pickford

    Two of England's best goalkeepers will face off as Arsenal host Everton on the last day of the Premier League season, and David James believes Jordan Pickford should remain number one for the Three Lions, for now.

    Gunners shot-stopper Aaron Ramsdale is one of Pickford's chief challengers for the England jersey, though the two have had mixed fortunes as the league season comes to a close on Sunday.

    Pickford has been in tremendous form for Everton as they steered clear of relegation, confirming their top-flight status for another year with a dramatic 3-2 comeback against Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Thursday.

    Ramsdale and Arsenal look to have missed out on a Champions League place after recent defeats to Tottenham and Newcastle United, with Mikel Arteta's side needing to beat Everton while hoping Norwich get the better of Spurs on the final day.

    Speaking to Stats Perform, former Liverpool and England goalkeeper James said Ramsdale's form this season will not have gone unnoticed, but described Pickford as "exceptional" whenever he has appeared for the national team.

    "I don't think Ramsdale's club form will be ignored," James said. "The way you get into England is by the good club form. However, Gareth Southgate is his England manager, not his club manager.

    "It would be wonderful, I'm sure, for an international manager to look at his squad and everyone's playing at the best of their abilities at the top of the league, [but] that's never going to be the reality.

    "I think what Jordan Pickford's done for England has been exceptional. Absolutely exceptional. It's not a case of not letting us down, he has been exceptional."

    James says Ramsdale would have to seize any chance that comes his way with England.

    "If he's to perform at the level that he's been performing for Arsenal for England, then Gareth has a question of 'actually now do I look at the overall picture?'," James said.

    Only five goalkeepers have made more saves than Pickford's 117 in the Premier League this season, though he is 15th for save percentage (66.67), while Ramsdale is ninth (70.08).

    In terms of expected goals on target (xGOT), Pickford has actually let in 0.9 more than expected, while Ramsdale has prevented 0.6 in that respect, though this is quite a way down from where it was heading into the last international break in late March (3.3).

    James expects Pickford to remain England's number one ahead of the World Cup later this year, barring a dip in form that could prompt a change of heart from Southgate.

    "If he looks at the quality of the goalkeeper and how much they positively influence England's performances, he may see a time to change," James said. "But at the moment, Jordan Pickford has been exceptional and therefore he's England's number one."

  • Cafu labels Alexander-Arnold 'one of the best right-backs in the world' as Brazil great hails England Cafu labels Alexander-Arnold 'one of the best right-backs in the world' as Brazil great hails England

    Brazil great Cafu feels he and "one of the best right-backs in the world" Trent-Alexander Arnold share many similarities, while he heaped praise on England's transformation under Gareth Southgate. 

    Alexander-Arnold remains in contention for an unprecedented quadruple with Liverpool, who have already won the EFL Cup and FA Cup and face Real Madrid in the Champions League final next Saturday. 

    Jurgen Klopp's side also head into the final day of the Premier League season just a point behind leaders Manchester City, requiring a win against Wolves and hoping Pep Guardiola's side falter against Aston Villa. 

    Alexander-Arnold has again been one of Liverpool's stars this campaign, with his 120 chances created far ahead of any other defender in Europe's top five leagues – David Raum in second has 88. 

    The England international also leads the way for assists in the same group this term, with his 18 putting him three clear of Liverpool team-mate Andy Robertson. 

    Former right-back Cafu, who played most of his career in Serie A with Roma and Milan, was quick to hail the progress Alexander-Arnold has made. 

    "I have been following Alexander-Arnold and the campaign he has had at Liverpool," he told BBC Sport. "His progress over the last few years has been amazing and for sure is one of the best right-backs in the world. 

    "He is young, strong and has developed hugely considering his age. He also has a lot of experience and I see a lot of similarities between him and myself. 

    "We both had a will and commitment to attack, to go forward and have the boldness to shoot and to put the crosses in. The diagonal movements he makes on the pitch are also similar to what I was making as a player." 

    Alexander-Arnold will hope to carry his club form into international duty in the Nations League with England before aiming for World Cup glory in Qatar in November and December. 

    Southgate's side made their first major final since 1966 by reaching the Euro 2020 showpiece and Cafu credited the changes the England boss has overseen. 

    "I have been following England and the evolution of their national team has been very good under Gareth Southgate," he added. "Along with Portugal, I consider England as the team to have evolved most on the pitch in the last few years. 

    "They have a very strong squad with individual players who are performing at a very high level for their clubs. This helps the national team and the progress they have shown with their players means they have a good chance to go far in the [World Cup]. 

    "If the England players listen to their coach as a group, then they have a better chance of winning." 

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.