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The limited overs series between England and India played out to be the perfect starter to the sumptuous Test series, the mega event that is to be played over the coming 6 weeks, starting August 1. The IT20 series and the ODI series just went on to show how little these two teams are separated by. While India trumped England in the IT20 series, England bounced back in the ODI series to show why they are ranked number 1 in the 50-over format. It's now down to the Test series, the one that matters the most and both these teams will be eager to come on top when they face each other in the longest format of the game.
The 1st match will be played at Edgbaston, Birmingham, a venue where no subcontinent team has ever won a Test match and Kohli & Co. will be eager to change this record. While the rains have arrived in England, the first day of play shows no signs of rain and we're likely to have an uninterrupted game of play for the 90 overs. The temperature will be around 22 degrees providing pleasant conditions for a game of cricket.
It is going to be the first Test series in England for Virat Kohli as captain and Kohli will be eyeing nothing less than a series win. The Indian team is marred with injuries as both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have been ruled out for the initial part of the series but with Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma there, leading the pace attack, the loss wouldn't affect India much. However, India will have a few key decisions to make as far as the playing XI is considered. KL Rahul poses serious contention on account of his recent form while Cheteshwar Pujara and Shikhar Dhawan's records outside Asia is a matter of concern. India will have the luxury to field any two of these three players and one is sure to miss out with Murali Vijay being a sure shot in the opening slot.
India will also have to take the tricky decision of whether to go in with two spinners or stick to one. However, this decision will be made only after analysing how the pitch will behave over the 5 days and Kohli will take a call accordingly. Umesh Yadav had a brilliant outing in the only practice match India played before the series against Essex where he picked up 4 wickets and is likely to feature in the XI alongside Ishant Sharma, the most experienced Indian pacer in the setup. Umesh is the fittest of all bowlers and also has the ability to reverse the ball once the ball gets old and he should get a nod ahead of Mohammed Shami if India decide to go in with 2 spinners.
Virat Kohli holds the key to the middle order alongside his deputy, Ajinkya Rahane. Virat had a series to forget when he last toured England back in 2014 but he's become a much-improved cricketer in these 4 years and he will be looking to get a few big scores to reinstate why he is touted as the best cricketer in the world currently. Murali Vijay has good memories of England from the last time he toured and will look to emulate his performance from the 2014 series. Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya will be the x-factor to this Indian batting line up and will like to take this opportunity to seal their position in the Indian side for a longer time.
England have a great record at home but have been inconsistent in the recent times. They have quality players but have suffered a major batting collapse on multiple occasions. They drew the 2-match series they played against Pakistan and they have some issues to be addressed. The batting is heavily dependent on Alastair Cook and Joe Root but Jos Buttler's form will act as a boost to their middle order. Moeen Ali enjoys batting at Edgbaston and he is someone who will trouble India with both bat and ball.
England's premier fast bowlers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad have loved bowling against India and will pose a major threat to the Indian batsmen. Anderson-Kohli encounter will be rivalry-renewing as Anderson had the better of Kohli when India last toured England. Adil Rashid was surprisingly picked for the Test series despite not playing the longer format on the domestic level for a long time but his exploits in the limited overs might have prompted the selectors to take this decision.
India have managed to win only 6 Test matches in England in all the matches they've played but this is a totally different side and they've shown in the last 2 years how dominating they can be. England's recent struggle with the red ball bodes well for India and they will grab this opportunity to win the game and create history.
Catch all the action of the 1st Test from Edgbaston in Birmingham on Wednesday, 1st August, 3:30 PM IST, 11:00 AM Local.