After emphatically quashing worries over the future of Tests with an edge-of-the-seat Edgbaston thriller, England and India move to the ‘home of Test cricket’. Lord’s hasn’t escaped the current dry spell in the UK, but with rain forecast for the weekend this match could bring all three possible results into play.
England were deserving winners at Edgbaston as the hosts enjoyed spells of dominance from their key players. Captain Joe Root got his customary first-innings fifty (80), but the emergence of young all-rounder Sam Curran was the biggest talking point of the win.
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The hosts did well to not get lost in the euphoria of a close win, as their problems are far from simple to be plastered over easily. Dawid Malan paid the price for his generosity in the slips – missing numerous catches, including that of Virat Kohli – and the lack of runs with the bat. A strong season for Ollie Pope has earned him the first crack in Test cricket.
However, the biggest challenge will be to overcome the absence of talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes. He failed with the bat (21 & 6), but was clinical with the ball picking up key wickets at the right time. Chris Woakes makes a comeback from injury, but England will be jittery about the absence of their ‘impact player’.
England’s worries will appear minuscule compared to those of their counterparts. The Indian captain Kohli had an exceptional Test (149 & 51), but lack of support from the top-order batsman is a worry. With opener Shikhar Dhawan and no. 3 KL Rahul struggling to look convincing, calls for Cheteshwar Pujara’s recall are growing shriller.
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Interestingly, their bowling looks far more settled, belying the fact that they are missing two of their best bowlers in Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. As off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and Ishant Sharma have shown, this Indian attack has the skill to pick up 20 wickets.
In all probability, we will witness another ‘testing pitch’ with spinners set to enjoy more than usual purchase at Lord’s. That may tempt both sides to play with an additional spinner, but India are slightly more stocked in this department with Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav waiting in the wings.
Players to watch: The slope at Lord’s is not for everyone to master and James Anderson will hope for better support from his fielders, while Ishant Sharma will hope to recreate his 2014 man-of-the-match heroics.
Stat attack: England’s record against sub-continent teams at Lord’s in their last five matches reads 2 draws and 3 defeats. In the last seven Tests they have played without Stokes, England have lost 5, won 1 and drew 1. England's strike partners Anderson and Stuart Broad aggregate 172 wickets at Lord’s in 42 Tests. England have lost only twice against India at Lord’s, but lost their last match in 2014.