England vs India: First Test preview

Joe Root's England will be looking to turn around the fortunes of their red-ball summer when they return to Test Match action against India at Trent Bridge on Wednesday in the first match up of a five-game series.

After defeat against New Zealand in June backed up a 3-1 dismantling by Virat Kohli's India during the Winter, the five-game contest against the Men in Blue is being billed as a make-or-break series for the Three Lions and will be their final preparation before they depart for an Ashes tour of Australia later this year. 

World number two's India also come into the encounter at Nottingham with a point to prove as it is their first return to the Test Match arena since being beaten by the Kiwi's in the inaugural World Test Championship final in June. 

  • England regulars return but Stokes pulls out 

After selecting an unorthodox squad against New Zealand earlier this summer, in order to give a number of first choice players a break, England have returned to a near full strength line-up with the likes of Chris Woakes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Sam Curran being brought back in to the fold.  

The biggest miss for the hosts, however, will be talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes who announced last week that he would be taking an “Indefinite break” from cricket after suffering from issues relating to mental health and to recover from a finger injury that reportedly had not fully healed after the 30-year-old made his return to the game in June.   

Stokes’ absence does create serious problems regarding the balance of the England side with Curran, Ollie Robinson or Dom Bess seeming most likely to come in and attempt to fill the shoes of the world’s number two ranked all-rounder by batting at seven with wicketkeeper Buttler filling in the role at six.     

In addition to Stokes, the England selectors may be without the options of Woakes and likely batsman Ollie Pope, though, the two are expected to be fit and available again before the end of the series.

Root and Coach Chris Silverwood will also have another decision to make at the top of the order after 24-year-old Haseeb Hameed hit a century opening the batting against India in a tour game just two weeks ago, putting further pressure on incumbents Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley who have both failed to find any red-ball form so far this summer.

Predicted England XI: Burns, Sibley, Crawley, Root (C), Lawrence, Buttler (WK), S Curran, Robinson, Leach, Broad, Anderson.

  • Tourists facing opening batting worries after string of injuries

India can rightfully be quietly confident about their chances in England having been possibly the most settled side in Test Match cricket over the last two years. They also come into the contest off the back of a stunning victory in their most recent away test series in Australia last January.

The biggest problem that faces captain Kohli going into the first game in Nottingham, however, is regarding who will partner Rohit Sharma at the top of the order.

Regular opener Shubman Gill has already returned home after sustaining a shin injury shortly after arriving in the UK and now backup Mayank Agarwal has been ruled out of the opening Test having suffered a concussion in training.

K.L Rahul appears to be the front runner to fill the void at the top of the batting card, an option Indian fans may not have to be too concerned about with Rahul having five Test centuries to his name, including a 149 in England in 2018, and has played all but three of his 36 Tests at the top of the order.   

The touring side will also have to make a difficult call in the spin bowling department concerning whether they will play both Ravi Ashiwn and Ravindar Jadeja at Trent Bridge, or which will be picked if only one is deemed necessary.

The biggest call regarding selection, though, will likely be which combination of seamers will be used as Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohamed Shami, Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Siraj are all set to be in contention.    

India predicted XI: R Sharma, Rahul, Pujara, Kohli (C), Rahane, Pant (WK), Ashwin, Thakur, Siraj, Bumrah, Shami

  • Ones to watch

Dan Lawrence (England)

Essex born Dan Lawrence was one of very few English players to come out of the series against New Zealand earlier this summer with an enhanced reputation. The 24-year-old averaged 40.5 across his three innings with his most memorable knock being a flare-filled 81 not out in the second match.

Lawrence had a challenging start to his international career to say the least. He made his Three Lions debut in Sri Lanka last winter before playing three Tests on subsequent spin-fest tour of India.

The middle-order batter came out stronger from the experience, however, and has shown a steep curve of improvement virtually every time he has played.  

As one of the most promising young batters to come out of the English County system in recent years, hopes will be high that Lawrence can really produce the goods in a marque series against one of the top cricketing nations and cement his place in the team for years to come.

Rishabh Pant (India)

In just 21 Test matches Rishabh Pant has already managed to cement himself as one of the most dangerous and skilful wicketkeeper-batsman in world cricket. 

His already impressive Test average of 43.84 does not even come close to telling the story in terms of how brutal a hitter he can be. 

The 23-year-old has showed himself to be one of the cleanest strikers of a ball in the world, a skill he demonstrated excellently his 88 ball 91 and 118 ball 101 against England in January this year. 

Little more can be said about how sensational a player Pant can really be on his day. The short boundary's at Trent Bridge may well play into his strengths so the England attack must be aware that even if the big names of Kohli and Sharma fall cheaply, Pant can easily take the game away from them in a swift and devastating fashion. 

  • What the captains say:  

Joe Root: 

On the absence of Ben Stokes"I hope he can get himself back to being Ben Stokes again that's all we all want. 

"He has my full support and he has the whole team's full support on that, it's important he takes as long as he needs.

"it doesn't mean we can't go on and have a very good start to this series.

"I'm always confident when we're playing at home. We've got some wonderfully talented cricketers."

Virat Kohli: 

On the England batting line-up: "we definitely have the ability to bowl them out on a consistent basis. 

"That’s the kind of quality that we possess and as long as we execute our skills and our plans, then we are very confident of doing that very often in the series.

"We’re definitely much better prepared than we have been in the past."

  • How to watch

The first day of the Test will begin Wednesday 4th of August at Trent Bridge, Nottingham at 11am. 

The game may last up until the 8th of August. 

Television coverage of the match in the UK will be shown each day on Sky Sports Cricket, with coverage beginning every day at 10.30am.