England v India: Bairstow set for another chance as undercooked hosts face tough task

By Sports Desk August 03, 2021

Jonny Bairstow looks set to get a chance to revive his Test career on Wednesday – against the very opponents who looked to have ended it earlier this year.

England batsman Bairstow recorded three ducks in four innings as Joe Root's side fell to a 3-1 series loss in India and the Yorkshireman did not feature in the home red-ball series against New Zealand in June.

However, he is back in the fold for the five-match rubber against Virat Kohli's men, which begins at Trent Bridge, and a thigh injury to Ollie Pope looks to have created an opening in the middle order.

Ben Stokes' absence as the star all-rounder takes time out to look after his mental health and allow an injured finger to heal means Bairstow's experience might win the day over Dan Lawrence when it comes to deciding who should bat at number five below Root.

The lack of Stokes also means Bairstow and Lawrence could both play, although that would see Root restricted to a four-man bowling attack.

A greater degree of firepower will probably be required against a fine India side, although the tourists' strength in all departments has served to undermine their preparations.

Opener Mayank Agarwal will miss the opening Test with concussion after being struck on the head by a Mohammed Siraj bouncer in the nets.

Shubman Gill is already absent with a shin injury and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane strongly suggested India would be loathe to move Cheteshwar Pujara up from his pivotal number three slot. It could mean Abhimanyu Easwaran stepping in to open despite not playing any first-class cricket for 15 months.

Although far from an ideal scenario, the combination of a heavily loaded international schedule and the demands of quarantine and bio-secure bubbles means plenty of players – including much of England's brittle batting order – are heading into what should be an elite-level contest somewhat undercooked.

England look to their Mr Dependable once more

James Anderson's incredible career as the most prolific seam bowler in Test history looked to be reaching the end in 2019, when calf problems restricted him to just four overs in that year's Ashes series.

Since then, he has claimed 42 wickets for England at 23, breaking through the 600-wicket barrier in the process. As pacemen Jofra Archer and Ollie Stone nurse their latest injuries, the 39-year-old Anderson remains as important to his country's prospects of success as ever.

Preparation the key for Kohli

Anderson resuming his duel with master batsman Kohli is once again sure to be a highlight of the series. The India captain has been in England with his squad for two months now, with the World Test Championship final defeat to New Zealand at least clearing the way for the sort of acclimatisation and preparation seldom enjoyed for away tours in the modern era.

Kohli averages 35.63 in Tests in England, with two centuries and three centuries to his name in 11 matches. Although a perfectly respectable record, he would love to bring it closer to his returns in Australia – conditions that a haul of six centuries and four fifties (average 54.08) show he has unquestionably tamed.

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