England defeated India in their 1000th Test at Edgbaston. The game was a great contest between bat and ball. India's over-reliance on Virat Kohli was left exposed. However, despite winning the Test, England have some questions to answer as well heading into Lord’s.
Ben Stokes who got Virat Kohli out in the second innings of the first Test won’t be playing at Lord's because of his off-field problems. The first question that England need to answer that who will replace him. Chris Woakes or Moeen Ali? It will depend on the wicket but with the hot weather around, they may go in with Ali instead of Woakes. The hosts have already declared that Ollie Pope will make his debut and play at No 4. However, England will have to make decision on the fielder who will replace Dawid Malan in the slip cordon. The English left-handers had their own troubles against Ravichandran Ashwin in the first Test and if India include Ravindra Jadeja then he can also take benefit of the rough created by pacers as the Test progresses..
For India, Cheteshwar Pujara will once again fight for his place with Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul while the chances of either Kuldeep Yadav or Jadeja playing at Lord’s are high. “The pitch is going to be all-round: if batsmen bat well, they can get runs; obviously the Dukes ball (will swing) in overcast conditions; and when the wicket wears off the spinners can come in. It’s a tempting thought to field two spinners but we have to take a call on that depending on the team balance. But two spinners are definitely in contention,” Kohli said in the pre-match conference.
The one thing which is in India’s favour irrespective of their combination is England's recent record against Asian teams at Lord's. They have not won any Test from their last five Tests at Lord’s against the teams from sub-continent.
It will be vital for teams to bat first at Lord’s as history suggests that as the innings progress, the average score also dwindles from 315 in the first innings to 156 in the fourth innings. The difference in the scores of the first and last innings is quite alarming and hence batting first will most likely be the choice of the team that wins the toss.
Moreover, the teams have won more Tests while batting first at Lord’s than while fielding first.
The first Test was a dream Test for Ashwin as he took seven wickets while it was not a good one for his counterpart Adil Rashid. In the last five Tests between Asian teams and England at Lord’s, Asian spinners have made the difference by taking more wickets and having a better average and strike-rate. This will force India to include one more spinner in their line-up for sure.
James Anderson did not pick up many wickets in the first Test but he picked up a crucial wicket of Dinesh Karthik early on the fourth day to guide England towards victory. However, Lord’s has always been special for him as he is just six wickets away from becoming the first pacer to take 100 wickets at a single venue in Tests.
India need someone who can spend time at the middle and who better to do it than Pujara. The big question though is whether he is able to do it in England. Well, if Kohli can do it then why not Pujara. Since 2015, only Steve Smith, Kohli and Kane Williamson have a better average than him in Test cricket among players who have scored at least 2,000 runs. His recent county performances may be the reason why he was left out in the first Test but it’s time to give him another go at his most favourite position.
India are struggling over Ajinkya Rahane and KL Rahul’s form since last 10 Tests as both batsmen average below 30 but with Rahane’s superior record at Lord’s, he may get another chance. Moreover, Rahane has scored five of his nine Test hundreds in the second Test of a series so with history in his favour, he will once again try to repeat it. KL Rahul who played at No 3 in the first Test needs some backup from the team management as he has already shown glimpses of his caliber but now, he will try to chase consistency.