Sportsbooks have India as the heavy betting favorites (1/2) for the first test against England in Chennai. England (15/4) are the underdogs as they are playing a dominant Indian team that will take advantage of home conditions. England knows that a win in the first test can dramatically change the complexion of the series. The first test starts on Feb 5.
While England are the betting underdogs, it would be a mistake for punters and the Indian cricket team to write them off. We take a look at the three things that England must do to win the first test.
Pick The Right Playing XI
When it comes to playing in overseas conditions, it becomes even more imperative for the touring party to get the Playing XI correct. When India played the first test in Australia, they made mistakes with the Playing XI and lost the first test badly. England cannot afford to get their Playing XI wrong in Chennai as it will put them on the back foot even before a ball is bowled.
England should not make the mistake of looking at the opposition’s strength and weaknesses and pick their squad. They need to look at their own strength and weaknesses and then determine who is going to play. England have already missed a trick by leaving out Jonny Bairstow for the first two tests. The selectors claimed that Bairstow needed a rest and might have sold England short already.
Bairstow was batting at number three during England’s tour of Sri Lanka. They will now have to fill that slot with someone new. However, it’s their bowling combination that is probably going to be the most difficult decision for the selectors.
Zak Crawley and Dom Sibely opened in Sri Lanka but did not do well. One of them will have to give way to Rory Burns who is returning from injury. Getting the openers right and the number three position right is going to be critical for the batting unit. The middle-order looks strong on paper as Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Butler are all experienced players. Ben Foakes is expected to take the gloves.
Ben Stokes brings a lot of balance to the side as he is a world class all-rounder. England will be tempted to play another all-rounder in either Moeen Ali or Chris Woakes. Ali brings in the off-spin factor which could give him an edge in Indian conditions. However, Ali hasn’t played test cricket for quite a while. Whether they pick him or Woakes could be another important decision.
England are likely to play four bowlers and have one or two all-rounders chip in. There will be two pacers and two spinners most likely. The two spinners could come in the form of Jack Leach and Dom Bess. Picking the two fast bowlers is going to be interesting. James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer and Olly Stone are all fit. England will most likely go with Anderson. Whether they will go with the pace of Archer or go back to the trusted duo of Broad and Anderson remains to be seen.
Get Pujara and Kohli Early
England must have detailed plans on getting C Pujara and Virat Kohli out early. Pujara played well in Australia but did not make a big score. He will be eager to take advantage of home conditions and pile on the runs. Kohli missed the last three matches and will be keen on leading with the bat. India have a strong squad for the first two tests.
Get A Big First Innings Score
England would like to win the toss and bat first throughout the series. Even if they lose the toss, one thing they need to do is make a big score in the first innings and put the pressure on India.
If England can get these three factors right, they will significantly increase their chances of winning. If you would like to bet on the first test, you can do so below.