England could, conceivably, have taken the nine wickets they needed to seal an unlikely victory had the weather not intervened most critically on the final day at Trent Bridge. India should have overhauled the remaining 157 runs they needed in that time to claim a deserved 1-0 lead in the series, despite requiring a record successful run-chase. And England would have, without doubt, been in a far better position had someone other than Joe Root done something with the bat. For all the beautiful coulda, shoulda, woulda scenarios that cricket – or sport for that matter – tends to throw up, here we are again with the series on a level footing after the drawn opener, but with both sides in possession of greater knowledge than they had a week ago, not to mention a few selection conundrums.
England had rammed home what was more than an inkling during their series defeat to New Zealand that their batting line-up is out of touch, and in the absence of Ben Stokes, far too reliant on one man, Root. But England also learned that they can fight even after being considerably underdone after a lack of red-ball games. Just how sustainable that is as a strategy rather than as a fall-back in a crisis will be found out soon enough if their batters continue to fail.
First-innings dismissals to excellent deliveries for Rory Burns and Jonny Bairstow aside, England’s batting left so much to be desired. No one besides Root even threatened the high-30s and Dom Sibley’s blockades of 18 off 70 and 28 off 133 bolstered his indomitable captain without providing any spark. Wholesale changes loom, some forced by injury, others by a pressing need to put runs on the board.
Ollie Pope has had an extra week to recover from a quadriceps tear but may have to wait to make his return after a shake-up for the team’s balance, thanks to Stuart Broad’s calf muscle injury, a late niggle to James Anderson and the recall of an in-form Moeen Ali – England’s first sighting of spin this summer.
India’s bowling attack, without R Ashwin, answered many questions; their pace attack was a highlight, led by Jasprit Bumrah’s nine wickets for the match. Ravindra Jadeja held his own with the bat, scoring fifty in the first innings while it was the middle order who struggled. Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane all failed to crack double figures but none of that senior trio is likely to make way at this stage.
At Lord’s the weather is set fair, meaning what began as an enthralling contest between these sides offers a similarly gripping second chapter.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
It is 356 days since Zak Crawley‘s double-century against Pakistan in Southampton. His only innings of note in the 14 he has played since has been 53, albeit in incredibly challenging batting conditions during the day-night Test against India at Ahmedabad in February. There is a sense that Crawley showed he has what it takes to make it during his knock at the Ageas Bowl nearly a year ago, and that he is a player worth persisting with for the future. However, England’s need to strengthen their batting is pressing. Dan Lawrence will make way as Jos Buttler moves up to No.6 to accommodate Ali, most likely at No. 7, but Crawley isn’t safe either. Haseeb Hameed has impressed in the nets, not to mention with his hundred against the Indians in a warm-up for this series, which hasn’t gone unnoticed given the current line-up’s struggles to support Root. Should Hameed make his first Test appearance since touring India in 2016-17, it could be at the expense of Crawley or Sibley. Crawley needs a strong showing, if his time isn’t already up.
Cheteshwar Pujara has gone nine Test innings without reaching fifty. His score of just 4 first-up in Nottingham didn’t help, although being 12 not out in the second innings buys time in the sense of what might have been had India had the chance to pursue their target on the fifth day. With KL Rahul finding some touch as opener, having been initially included in the touring party as a middle-order option, Pujara could be on unstable ground should Rahul drop down at any point to make way for the regular openers.
Broad faces a wait to play his 150th Test after his injury, with Mark Wood set to replace him for his first Test of the summer. Saqib Mahmood, drafted into the squad as cover, could yet make a surprise debut after Anderson missed training due to his tight quad. He impressed in the white-ball series against Pakistan, and looks set to compete with Craig Overton for the final place in the XI. Ali should slot straight in for his first home Test in two years after his impressive form in the Hundred and is likely to bat at No. 7 with England retaining Sam Curran at No. 8 in a four-man pace attack.
England (possible): 1 Rory Burns, 2 Dom Sibley, 3 Zak Crawley/Haseeb Hameed, 4 Joe Root (capt.), 5 Jonny Bairstow, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Sam Curran, 9 Ollie Robinson, 10 Mark Wood, 11 Craig Overton/Saqib Mahmood
With Shardul Thakur sidelined with a left hamstring injury, Ashwin looks like an automatic selection, especially in warm (by this English summer’s standards) and dry conditions. However, with some cloud cover expected, India could seek to exploit their reverse-swing options in Ishant Sharma and/or Umesh Yadav. Mohammed Siraj is expected to play, so it will likely come down to a choice between Ashwin, if India opt for two spinners, or Sharma if they want a four-pronged pace attack. Mayank Agarwal, a late withdrawal after he was concussed by a Siraj bouncer two days before the first Test, has recovered and batted in the nets this week but Rahul has snatched the opening position for the moment with 84 and 26 at Trent Bridge.
India (possible): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Cheteshwar Pujuara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin/Ishant Sharma, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Mohammed Siraj
Pitch and conditions
What they say about death and taxes also applies to rain playing a part in England home series, as we saw in the first Test. But the good news is the elusive summer of 2021 appears to be emerging with warmer, drier weather expected for the duration at Lord’s but with some cloud. The pitch looked set to be a typical bat-first proposition on match eve.
Stats and trivia
For only the second time this century, England have failed to register a win in their first three matches of a home season – their first win of the 2014 home season came in their fifth game.
Joe Root is 14 runs away from going past Graham Gooch’s 8900 Test runs and moving to second among the highest run-getters in Test cricket for England. He is also 113 runs short of reaching 9000 Test runs.
If neither Broad nor Anderson play, this will be only England’s second home Test to feature neither bowler since 2007 (after the 2012 Test against West Indies in Birmingham)
“They’ve got 1000 wickets between them, so it’s going to be potentially a bit of a loss, but with that comes opportunity for other people. We’ve seen previously in the summer, look at the Pakistan series, the opportunity arose for other people coming in to rise to those challenges”
Jonny Bairstow on the prospect of a Broad-Anderson injury double-blow
“The good thing is Jadeja has got runs in the first game already, so he will go into the second game confident. That already makes our batting a bit deeper, the lower order contributed with the bat as well”
Virat Kohli is content with where his side is at as a batting unit