Kohli vs Anderson, Ashwin vs Root Among 6 Key Battles in 1st Test
Both sides are coming off the back of series wins, India in Australia while England won in Sri Lanka.
Old rivals, well known to each other, India and England begin their four-match Test series in Chennai from 5 February. Both sides are coming off the back of series wins away from home, India in heroic fashion in Australia while England won at a canter, almost, in Sri Lanka.
Both teams boast off experienced and very skilled players in their ranks, all of whom will be keen to get one over their counterparts. Will James Anderson and Stuart Broad be able to do as much damage against a strong Indian batting unit? Will R Ashwin be able to repeat the success he had in Australia against Joe Root, Ben Stokes and co in his own backyard?
With so many superstar cricketers in the mix, there are bound to be some crucial subplots that will go a long way in deciding the series. One expects these battles to be fierce, memorable and definitely series defining.
Virat Kohli vs James Anderson
The Indian captain, who is coming off a rare break, will be raring to go and would not want to give an old rival an inch on what is likely to be Anderson’s last tour to India. Both are extremely battle hardy and have had a fair few contests since 2012, the last time India lost a Test series at home.
Anderson has 26 wickets from 10 Tests in India whereas Kohli boasts of 843 runs at an average in excess of 70 against England in India.
If an in-form Anderson, who didn’t have the best tour in 2016, gets the ball to talk against the Indian batsmen and especially Kohli, it would be ideal for the visitors. Kohli, who went through a century-less 2020, however will be keen to get the big knocks behind him as soon as possible, which sets up a spicy affair.
Rohit Sharma vs Jofra Archer
Rohit has a fantastic record as opener in Test cricket in Indian conditions and will once again be required to get a bagful of runs. It is likely that he will have to face the tearaway pacer Archer quite a bit early in his innings.
Negotiating the new ball and the pace of Archer will be crucial and Rohit as the senior opener along with Shubman Gill will be expected to take on the pacer, who will be playing his first Test on Indian soil. Archer will hope to rattle the Indian openers with his pace but will be challenged by the conditions which aren’t the most seamer friendly.
Both can single-handedly change the momentum of the contest very quickly and the winner of the battle is likely to put their team in the box seat.
R Ashwin vs Joe Root
Considered to be among the best batsmen in the game currently, Joe Root is undoubtedly a big scalp for any bowler. If recent events are anything to go by, the wily Ashwin will be plotting his downfall just like he did with Steve Smith in Australia.
Root is in good form and so is Ashwin and both will look to outwit each other. If Root gets in the Indian bowlers could be in for a long day, whereas Ashwin will hope to stop the England batsman from doing exactly that.
England depend heavily on Root and getting his wicket as quickly as possible will be the most important thing for India, who are bound to turn to one of their most potent weapons with the ball.
How Ashwin vs Root plays out will likely have a big impact on how the match pans out, especially in conditions that are good for batting and well known to the ace spinner.
Ben Stokes vs Jasprit Bumrah
Matchwinners on their day and heavily depended upon by their teams – Stokes and Bumrah play very similar roles and are important factors for their team’s success.
Bumrah, playing his first Test at home, is the leader of the pack among the bowlers and will be expected to strike telling blows. Among the biggest scalps in the England line-up is Stokes, who can take the game away from an opposition very quickly, and Kohli is unlikely to waste too much time in attacking him right from the get-go.
Get Stokes early and India’s time out in the field and the English innings total is likely to reduce significantly!
Rishabh Pant vs England Spinners
The left-handed wicket-keeper batsman is in fine form with the bat after two fantastic fourth innings knocks against a hostile Australian bowling in Sydney and Brisbane. Captain Kohli will expect nothing less than similar performances once again as he can accelerate very quickly and take the game away.
Never shy of taking on the spinners and going over the top, Pant will be eyeing quick runs against the English spinners (Jack Leach, Moeen Ali or Dom Bess) to provide the surge in the second half of the innings.
An impactful knock at number 6 can be extremely useful in the cause of a Test win.
Cheteshwar Pujara vs Stuart Broad
India’s number 3 loves to bat and in home conditions will be looking forward to doing that for plenty of hours. Against Australia, on the recently concluded tour Pujara had a couple of awkward moments with Pat Cummins, something England and the vastly experienced Stuart Broad will have taken note of.
Pujara’s highest Test score (206*) was against England in Ahmedabad while Broad has 70 wickets in 20 Tests against India.
Broad, even Anderson, will have to bring all their experience to the fore and as Pujara tries to tire them out.
Long-ish spells, unerring accuracy and patience will be key for Broad and England in the battle against Pujara.
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