Kohli back to take the mantle; 100th Test for Root; no spectators for the first game of four-match series
Amid fading light and pin-drop silence, Glenn McGrath steamed in, Harbhajan Singh settled in his stance, and the Aussie’s thunderbolt was squeezed for runs to settle the humdinger of a decider at Chepauk in 2001.
You can still hear the crowd’s roar.
Sadly, there will be no spectators for the India-England first Test that gets underway here on Friday.
After its trail-blazing triumph in Australia, India has the wind and the momentum in its favour. Now, back at full strength with skipper and batting mainstay Virat Kohli and the premier pace pair of Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah returning, India will fancy its chances.
There is still some grass left on the surface and the pitch for the first Test should be sporting in nature with healthy bounce, enabling strokeplay, assisting the pacemen and providing help to the spinners as the match progresses.
After its 2-0 series triumph on spinner-friendly tracks in Sri Lanka, achieved without the influential Ben Stokes and the speedy Jofra Archer, England could provide a tough challenge to a host that normally demolishes opponents at home.
India’s formidable batting line-up will be predictable in nature. And the explosive Rishabh Pant will play as wicket-keeper batsman ending speculation about being fielded as a specialist bat.
India is likely to play three spinners, off-spinning all-rounders R. Ashwin, Washington Sundar and either Chinaman-bowler Kuldeep Yadav or left-arm spinner Axar Patel.
Axar will give the attack control and England did struggle against left-arm spin in Sri Lanka. If the Englishmen are not able to pick him, wrist-spinner Kuldeep can inflict some damage.
After his heroic display in Australia where he batted under excruciating pressure with the grace and flow of a natural left-hander, and bowled with accuracy and subtle variations, the young Washington is expected to keep his place.
And the pace pack of Ishant and Bumrah, in his first Test at home, should torment the Englishmen. Old warhorse Ishant will be playing his 98th Test and is only three shy of 300 Test scalps.
Talking about numbers, the Test will be momentous in nature for English skipper Joe Root. It will be his 100th.
With match-winning monuments — 228 and 186 — behind him in Sri Lanka, Root will be the key man in the England middle-order.
His duel with Ashwin will be a battle within the larger game and Root is expected to use his feet and also employ the sweep and the reverse-sweep.
England is not short of match-winners. Among them will be skilful all-rounder Stokes with huge reserves of mental strength. The fleet-footed Jos Buttler will be the X-factor in the line-up. The feisty Ollie Pope will replace the injured Zak Crawley, ruled out for two Tests.
The pace attack, with the wily James Anderson, the lanky Stuart Broad and the hostile Archer — two of the three should play — has a fair amount of venom.
And the two spinners, offie Dom Bess and left-armer Jack Leach did team up well in Sri Lanka.
Like the silent era movies, this will be a ‘silent’ Test. Oh!, for the roar of the crowd!
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishab Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasiprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Shardul Thakur.
England: Joe Root (captain), Zak Crawley, Dominic Sibley, Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Dan Lawrence, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Foakes (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Dominic Bess, Jack Leach, Olly Stone.
(Match starts at 9.30 AM).
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