England vs India 1st Test Preview: Virat Kohli and co face tough challenge against resurrected hosts

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New Delhi:

Indian cricket team is set to begin a long five-match Test series against England at their home from Wednesday at the Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham.

If you go by the pre-series hype and discussion, England vs India must rank as one of the most anticipated Test series of recent times. The action in coloured clothing saw the honours shared evenly, as India won the T20I series and England picked up the ODI series. All that will count for nothing as the temperament, technique, and skill of the players will be put into real ‘test’ starting from August 1, which will be the 1000th Test for England.

The series that pits fifth-ranked hosts against the top-ranked visitors, has a lot of undercurrent factors that could alter the course of action. England is currently witnessing an unprecedented heat wave, which means the pitches will more likely be sub-continental than English. Indian captain Virat Kohli could be checking the weather stats, as he gets set to improve his average of 13.4 from the 2014 series.

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England have responded to the ‘heat wave’ by calling up Adil Rashid from his self-proclaimed Test hibernation to put him on the verge of a sensational recall. What his club Yorkshire or Michael Vaughan think of the recall will become completely irrelevant, if he can replicate his form from the white ball cricket.

That said, the hosts have a lot of worries on their plate. Opener Alastair Cook’s form recently has largely been hit-and-miss while his partner Keaton Jennings is more miss-and-miss! Having all-rounders Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, and Jonny Bairstow is a big cushion for skipper Joe Root, who is busy deciphering ‘How to convert 50s to 100s’.

India, under Kohli, have always surprised opponents with their team selections and this time around could be the same. Shikhar Dhawan’s penchant to draw a line between his white-ball form and red-ball form could be a worrying crease on Kohli’s forehead. Cheteswar Pujara remains on the tenterhooks of selection, as KL Rahul continues to push for selection.

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Ravichandran Ashwin’s bag-full of wickets on spinning tracks back home hasn’t cut ice in the recent past when it comes to overseas Tests. Add to that the presence of Kuldeep Yadav, who has earned his Test whites after troubling Root and co. with the white ball – another area where Kohli’s selection could be a surprise!

Players to watch: James Anderson has 60 wickets at home against India in 12 Tests and has picked up Kohli five times in 2014. A battle royale between these two top performers could spice up the series. Jelly beans anyone?

Stat attack: England have lost only once in Edgbaston Tests since 2002 (P13, W9, D3, L1). While, England have won five of their last six Tests at this venue, drawing the other.

At the first venue (Edgbaston), India remain winless, losing five and drawing once and the visitors have lost seven of their last nine Tests in England (W1, D1).

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