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India Likely to Play Two Spinners, England to Give Debut to Pope at Lord's

Charles Reynolds | Updated: August 9, 2018, 8:27 AM IST
India Likely to Play Two Spinners, England to Give Debut to Pope at Lord's


Lord’s, a day out from the second Test of this England v India series, is a sea of activity. Under sunny skies, regularly interrupted by large banks of innocuous high-flying clouds, both sides go through their final practices – as groundstaff get on with all the last-minute jobs that are required to ready the sport’s most famous colosseum for match day.

England, who emerged victorious from last week’s epic Edgbaston encounter, will be throwing a new man to the lions of Test cricket, the debut of Ollie Pope confirmed by Joe Root in his pre-match conference.

Pope, who is just 20, will slot in at number four for England, as a direct replacement for Dawid Malan, despite not batting there for his county Surrey – a decision that has worried some, but not Root.

"I know that might be seen as quite a big jump,” said Root. “But he's obviously an exciting talent and, with the guys around him, I think he fits nicely into that position in our team."

England might have settled on one of their two selectorial decisions, the other will be decided on the first morning, a straight shootout between Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes, with Jamie Porter released from the original squad of 13.

How the pitch looks on Thursday morning will surely go a long way to informing that decision – on Wednesday afternoon however its appearance mostly remained a mystery, covered first by a white sheet and then by the hover cover, as part of the groundsman’s final preparations.

The brief glimpse given of the hallowed 22-yards of turf, that will go such a long way to deciding the outcome of this Test, showed a very green looking surface, although much of that grass, currently holding the pitch together, will be shaved off before play starts on Thursday.

With the weeks of blazing sunshine and unusually high temperatures London has enjoyed recently, the expectation of a fairly dry surface remains high – should that be the case then a twin-pronged spin attack, with the selection of Moeen, looks the most likely outcome.

However with India’s batsmen severely tested by England’s seamers in the first Test, and England usually more comfortable picking a seam-dominated attack, it would not be surprise should Woakes ultimately be named in the final XI, his overall chances of selection perhaps slightly lower than Moeen’s but not by much.

The makeup of India’s side remains more of a mystery, the tourists so far remaining tight-lipped about their team for the second Test. However, given the conditions, it seems fairly likely that they will opt to go with a second spinner, with Kuldeep Yadav the man expected to play.

Given India’s struggles with the bat at Edgbaston, there is also a fairly strong feeling that they might opt to bring in Cheteshwar Pujara to strengthen their lineup replacing Shikhar Dhawan or perhaps even Hardik Pandya – a suggestion given more credence by the long net session that Pujara has undergone both on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Whatever the makeup of the sides, after last week’s frenetic series opener, the signs point to another thrilling clash here at Lord’s.

This current England side have proven to be horribly inconsistent in Test matches, while their record at Lord’s against Asian teams has also been poor recently, their last win here against any of India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka coming in 2011. Those are both facts that they will be keen to turn around – whether they are able to remains an altogether different prospect.

India were able to initiate batting collapses in both innings at Edgbaston and will have high hopes of doing so again here at Lord’s against an England batting card that remains for whatever reason exceptionally brittle.

It will also be interesting to see the effect that the absence of Ben Stokes has on England, not just being shorn of his talismanic talents on the field but also the much less easy to quantify psychological damage that the revelations from Bristol Crown Court might wreak as well.

After the pulsating drama of last week’s opener in Birmingham, expectations for Lord’s remain high, but with a series fascinatingly poised, five days of glorious sunshine forecast and a bountiful crop of intrigue both on and off the pitch, you wouldn’t bet against it delivering.
First Published: August 9, 2018, 8:15 AM IST

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