It’s been a long hard summer for English sport and no team has suffered more than the cricketers, but a nine match winless run in tests could be coming to an end at Lord’s in the second of 5 matches against India.
This is a vital series for both sides, with Alistair Cook’s men badly needing to find a victory from somewhere and MS Dohni’s men representing the world’s largest cricketing demographic – oh, and looking for a fist win in 15 tests away from home and some much needed rankings points.
The first test however, showed exactly why both these sides are in such dire positions. A stupefying Trent Bridge pitch gave us some of the dullest cricket seen on these shores for a good while, but both sides were in a position to win, although you wouldn’t have thought it based on the end of match reactions.
England had a fine opportunity to seize the game when India found themselves at 346-9 in the first innings, but Bhuv Kumar and Mohammad Shami put on 111 runs for the last wicket – that would prove to be a standout feature of the test.
India had England at 202-7 and then 280-8, but Joe Root and James Anderson’s fantastic escape, aided by some less than sharp bowling from India, it must be said, which turned the game back into England’s hands. India had looked comfortable I their second innings but lost clusters of wickets, two at the end of Saturday, and then 3 for 17 in the morning, before Stuart Binny scored a second half century of the match to save the day for MS Dohni and Duncan Fletcher.
Lord’s however, should be very different. Mick Hunt will be well aware of what’s expected of him in terms of having a competitive pitch set up – certainly one more responsive than the one he prepared for Sri Lanka, and if so, England have the clear edge in a frontline bowling attack to take advantage. Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are two of the players that have not suffered a troubled last 12 months – forget the trumped up charges India filed earlier this week – and this surface should offer plenty of support to Liam Plunkett and particularly Ben Stokes, who should thrive on the extra bounce and carry that this surface is likely to offer.
India’s attack is a young one but it has struggled on it’s travels, and Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami particularly struggled against Root and Anderson’s late fightback, albeit on a docile surface, but with the edge in the frontline exaggerated by home conditions, England can take a lead here in a vital test.
Also worth backing is Joe Root to be top first innings batsman. Conditions will be trickier but Root scores well at Lord and his 154 at Trent Bridge probably went a good way towards making sure India were never in a position to strike and in the last test here he top scorer in the first innings with a mighty 200. 5/1 looks too big.
3 pts England (5/4 general)
1 pt Joe Root Top England first innings runscorer (5/1 Skybet)