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India v England: Second Test preview

Wow. What a start to the tour. We’ve already been there and dissected that phenomenal performance in a previous article, but it really is worth emphasising just how well England played in the opener.

Can they back it up? Of course they can; it won’t be easy, and we can expect India to come roaring back at the first time of asking, but it is clear that Joe Root and his men are not just in Chennai to compete.

Looking ahead to the second Test, it’s clear that we’re in for another fascinating five days (emphasis on the five!).

The teams

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Under more normal circumstances, the safe money would probably be on an unchanged XI, given the comprehensive nature of the first game’s result. Given the challenges of bubble life, however, England have understandably elected to change their Test squad throughout this series.

Jos Buttler has returned home and Ben Foakes is nailed on to make his first Test appearance in just under three years. The Surrey gloveman is one of the finest wicketkeepers in the country and has an excellent record with the bat in Asia. It’s a tough ask to come in and perform in one of the biggest series in world cricket but on the evidence of his previous international appearances, Foakes will be absolutely fine.

The other changes were less set in stone before the series got underway. Jofra Archer will miss out after picking up an elbow injury, while England have also omitted Jimmy Anderson and Dom Bess for this second encounter. Stuart Broad, Moeen Ali, Olly Stone, and Chris Woakes will compete for three bowling spots. We can expect Broad to come in as a direct replacement for Anderson, while Moeen will also certainly replace Bess.

Mo’s return to the Test arena is a moment to be savoured and he’ll no doubt be keen to grab this opportunity with both hands but the man he is replacing is desperately unlucky to be missing out. In fact, Bess is the leading Test wicket-taker in the world this year with 17 at an average of 22.41.

Stone’s pace makes him a more like-for-like replacement for Archer and what a reintroduction to the Test arena that would be. Obviously Woakes’ experience and batting pedigree also make him an attractive prospect but England will have to weigh up how highly they value that extra pace.

Predicted Playing XI: Burns, Sibley, Lawrence, Root (c), Stokes, Pope, Foakes (wk), Ali, Broad, Leach, Stone

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The hosts are set for changes as well. Axar Patel has returned to fitness and is likely to return to the side in place of spinner Shahbaz Nadeem, who has dropped out of the squad.

On a pitch that Ajinkya Rahane has indicated looks set to be an absolute bunsen burner, India may go for the mystery spin of Kuldeep Yadav after his omission in the first Test – a decision that was questioned by many – with Washington Sundar the man that would surely have to make way.

Talking of Rahane, the Indian vice-captain has kept his place despite pressure building on him after scores of 1 and 0 in the first Test. People were calling for him to take over from Kohli as skipper after the Australia series, which shows just what a cut-throat game Test cricket can be.

The fine margins

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First-innings runs are a must in Chennai. Those who criticised England’s decision to bat long perhaps overlooked that fact but it was refreshing to see the choice vindicated so clearly by the result.

With that in mind, there is absolutely no doubt that the toss will shape how the second Test plays out – fingers crossed that Rooty’s luck continues!

Win the toss or not, going big and batting long in the first innings is going to be more important than ever for England given Rahane’s hint that the Chennai pitch for this Test is going to spin. If only we had 11 Dom Sibleys!

Prediction

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India are going to come back strongly, that’s for sure, but if England can reach the level of performance they produced in the first Test, that may not be an issue.

With a real turner of a pitch expected, the toss is going to be vital. Our prediction is if Rooty calls right we’ll win the Test, if he calls wrong it’ll be a hard-fought draw.

See you bright and early tomorrow. It’s a Saturday, so you’ve got no excuse not to be up from 4am…