India, England bank on batting deliverance at Lord's

The calmness stood out. Two teams, two captains, one buoyed by an extraordinary win from the jaws of defeat and the other with knowledge that his side were just inches away from a historic win. If the Edgbaston Test stood out for England and India trading blow for blow until the home side landed the knock out punch, the build up for the Test at Lord’s was marked by a serenity that underlined the teams’ confidence in themselves to get better and put in an improved performance.

That’s just on the field and during practice. Outside of it, things were very different. Ben Stokes’s trial has engulfed the papers in England, and the volatile nature of it means some of it would have definitely rubbed off on the hosts too. Twice in two days, England’s press conference began with a statement that there should be no questions on the trial.

Trevor Bayliss had already warned that replacing Stokes would essentially mean needing two or even three players to step up. And his absence means England’s team combination comes into question. Can Sam Curran be trusted more with a bat? Can Chris Woakes or Moeen Ali, playing as the allrounder, do a good enough job with both bat and ball?

And it puts the spotlight on their already struggling top order. Joe Root may be raking up fifties for fun, but with Ollie Pope taking up the number four slot, there are two out of form openers and a debutant in England’s top order.

If England will be praying that those two or three indeed step up in Stokes’s absence, India will be fervently hoping for their own top order to hit form. Virat Kohli stood out like Sisyphus at Birmingham, while the rest of the batsmen were on a free fall. That performance from the top order will have the Indian team contemplating changes, with Cheteshwar Pujara waiting to take his chance. But their bigger headache will be whether they need to get in the second spinner.

The pitch, as Kohli stated in the press conference, was hard and the grass cover was only present to hold it together. The visitors will be tempted to add Kuldeep Yadav or Ravindra Jadeja to the XI in order to make the most of a hard, dry pitch.

But the lack of certainty about the conditions and pitch has left both teams in a bit of a quandary. England and India have both left it till the last morning to decide their final XI, and it may just come down to how the teams read the pitch and react.

A tremendous first Test. A promise for better in the second. Superficially, a relaxed environment. Inside, a ton of nerves and lots of indecision. A piece of history waiting at Lord’s. The second Test could be another tonic for all those weeping about the death of the longest format.

When: England vs India, 2nd Test, August 9-13, 11 AM Local Time, 3:30 PM IST

Where: Lord’s, London

What to expect: A dry, hard surface which should make batsmen happy that they became batsmen. A Duke’s ball and the occasional spell of rain and overcast conditions that should make bowlers happy that they became bowlers. Expect another see-saw battle.

Team News:

England: The hosts have left out James Porter for the second Test, and have confirmed that Ollie Pope will be given his debut cap. They are still undecided on who to choose between Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes, and it would depend on their reading of the pitch on the first morning. Ali batted for a long time in the nets, more than the other England batters, and if that can be read as a hint, he might just get the nod.

Playing XI: Keaton Jennings, Alastair Cook, Joe Root (c), Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes/Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.

India: India have a few more selection headaches than England. For one, if they want to bring in Cheteshwar Pujara, who does he come in for? Shikhar Dhawan looks the likely candidate, but if India want to keep hold of a free scoring batsman on a good pitch, KL Rahul could make way. On the bowling front, the second spinner, as Kohli said, is a tempting choice. Kuldeep and Jadeja will be vying for the spot, but who could sit out is a more interesting discussion. Of the bowlers, only Ishant and Ashwin returned with figures that would ensure they play the second Test.

Probable XI: Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik (wk), R Ashwin, Hardik Pandya/Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav

Did you know?

– Since 2014, Asian teams have won three and drawn two Tests at Lord’s. The Asian spinners have averaged 29.48 compared to 36.13 for the English spinners in this period.

– James Anderson needs six more wickets to becomes the first fast bowler and second bowler after Muralitharan to take 100 wickets at a particular venue.

– Rahane averages 64.50 in the second Test of a series compared to 25.75 in the first match of a series (including one-off Tests). Five of his nine Test 100s have come in the second Test of a series.

What they said:

“I feel as a team we are just about there. It’s not like we are getting rolled over or getting dominated. Every match we play is competitive. It’s unfortunate that we haven’t been able to cross the line and that’s the only thing that we are looking at.” – Virat Kohli

“Every time you turn up here the surfaces can be quite different. At the start of the summer we were very below par and it would be easy to look too far into that, but against SA there was quite a lot of spin and against India previously spin came into it a lot in the second innings. That might play a big factor.” – Joe Root

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