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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  • England managing director Giles calls for second chances to resolve racism crisis England managing director Giles calls for second chances to resolve racism crisis

    Managing director of the England men's cricket team Ashley Giles believes second chances are key to solving the racism crisis following Azeem Rafiq's allegations.

    Rafiq suffered racial harassment and bullying while at Yorkshire, which was eventually brought to light and taken in front of a parliamentary select committee on November 16.

    He also accused Yorkshire and England of being institutionally racist, while Michael Vaughan has been stood down from his BBC Radio 5 Live show and the BBC's upcoming Ashes coverage amid Rafiq's allegations.

    Vaughan, who allegedly said there were "too many of you lot" towards Asian Yorkshire players, has repeatedly strongly denied the allegations and recently apologised to Rafiq for the "hurt he has gone through".

    Former England spinner Giles, who played alongside Vaughan in the 2005 Ashes win, believes people must be offered a second chance and an opportunity to educate themselves for cricket to move forward.

    Asked specifically about Vaughan during a news conference, Giles responded: "I can't comment on what the BBC should do with one of their employees. But I think tolerance is really important.

    "We all do make mistakes and we will again. But we have to be able to tolerate, educate and rehabilitate otherwise people aren't going to open up and share their experiences and learn.

    "Does zero tolerance mean we shouldn't accept discrimination and racism? Absolutely. But not giving people second chances, I'm not sure that's a healthy way forward for us because it's certainly not going to bring people forward to either share their positive or negative experiences or even bring people forward to say, 'I just don't know – I don’t know how to react in this environment', or what to say.

    "We all know that this can be a bit of a minefield. Even the language we use around this area almost changes by the month. 

    "So for me we've got to educate more, we've got to call it out in the dressing room much more effectively if we see it because perhaps all of us in the past – and I'm not just talking about cricket – have let things go. 

    "We've got to be prepared to call them out and by that I don't mean we kick chairs and tables over and start a fight. 

    "We just make it very clear that those sorts of behaviours aren't right in our dressing rooms or environments and actually in all workplaces because, although cricket has an opportunity to do something very strong, I don't believe for one minute these same issues don't exist in society. 

    "So I think it’s a collective responsibility for all of us to do something about this."

    Joe Root's England side are already well into their preparations for the first Ashes Test in Australia on December 8 at the Gabba.

    While aware of the boisterous crowds and lively occasions an Ashes Test can be, Giles insisted he has given his backing for Root to remove his players from the field should his team-mates be abused based on their nationality or race.

    "We know crowds can be lively here – I've experienced that myself as a player," he added as he spoke from Australia.

    "But I'd certainly trust Joe Root to do what is right on the field. If he chose to bring the team into the middle of the field and stop the game while that was investigated, then absolutely. 

    "I don't think any of our players should be subject to any abuse actually but discrimination and racism particularly."

  • Iyer and Saha fifties crucial for India as New Zealand set target of 284 Iyer and Saha fifties crucial for India as New Zealand set target of 284

    Shreyas Iyer and Wriddhiman Saha made crucial fifties on another topsy-turvy day on day four of the first Test between India and New Zealand.

    The hosts recovered from 51-5 in their second innings with Test debutant Iyer (65) following up an impressive century in the first, and Saha adding an unbeaten 61 before India declared on 234-7.

    Chasing a target of 284, New Zealand lost Will Young (2) early in their reply and needing 280 runs to win ahead of what promises to be a tense final day.

    Resuming on 14-1, India lost five wickets in a troublesome morning session with Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson snagging a pair of wickets and Ajaz Patel also doing damage.

    Iyer was once again his team's main protagonist, though, putting on partnerships of 52 and 64 with Ashwin (32) and Saha to turn the tide.

    He eventually nicked Southee behind to Tom Blundell but Saha, who had four fours and one six in his knock, continued to frustrate the tourists and an eighth-wicket stand of 77 with Axar Patel convinced stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane to call it.

    As the light began to dwindle, only four overs were possible in New Zealand's reply, but there was still enough time for Ashwin to trap Young (2) lbw, who was too late calling for a review that would have shown the ball missing leg stump.

    Debut to remember for Iyer

    In a Test match relatively short of runs, the 170 across both innings from Iyer has been vitally important for his team, and is particularly impressive given he last played a multi-day match nearly three years ago.

    Iyer hit eight fours and a six from the 125 balls he faced on Sunday, but most importantly, he dragged India back into the Test match and will be a strong contender for player of the match should his team complete the job on day five.

    New Zealand unable to keep India down

    It was the second time in as many days that New Zealand forced themselves into an excellent position, before allowing India to regain control as the day progressed.

    After collapsing from 197-2 to 296 all out in their first innings on day three, the Black Caps had India reeling with only five wickets remaining and a 100-run lead, before allowing them to add a further 183 with the next two wickets before the declaration.

  • Michael Vaughan: I'm sorry for the hurt Azeem Rafiq has gone through Michael Vaughan: I'm sorry for the hurt Azeem Rafiq has gone through

    Michael Vaughan has apologised "for the hurt Azeem Rafiq has gone through" amid his former Yorkshire team-mate's allegations of racism. 

    Former England captain Vaughan was this month named in a report investigating Rafiq's claims of institutional racism at the county club.

    The 47-year-old, who played for Yorkshire from 1993 to 2009 and led England to Ashes glory in 2005, allegedly said to a group of Asian team-mates there were "too many of you lot, we need to do something about it".

    Rafiq's version of events have been supported by Adil Rashid and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan.

    Vaughan, who was stood down from the BBC's coverage of the Ashes in wake of the allegations, has again denied the accusations made against him.

    "I'm sorry for the hurt [Rafiq's] gone through," he told the BBC. "Time, I don't think, can ever be a healer in the situation that he's gone through.

    "But hopefully time can be a way of us making sure that Yorkshire County Cricket Club never goes through this situation again and never puts themselves in a position of denial that they treated a player so badly."

    He added: "It hurts deeply, hurts me that a player has gone through so much and be treated so badly at the club I love.

    "I have to take some responsibility for that because I played for Yorkshire County Cricket Club for 18 years and if in any way shape or form I'm responsible for any of his hurt, I apologise for that."

    Asked if he made any racist comments during his time at Yorkshire, Vaughan said: "No I didn't. No."

    However, Vaughan, whose playing career spanned 18 years and saw him represent England for a decade, accepts there were many things he heard in dressing rooms that he "would not even consider to be acceptable now".

    He added: "I would say any sportsperson that's out there from that era that says otherwise, I don't think they're telling the truth. There were things said and back in the day, it wasn't deemed to be offensive. It would be now.

    "I can apologise if I was involved in any way, shape or form with a dressing room that had a culture that wasn't inclusive for everyone.

    "My recollections are all the dressing rooms that I played in that we were inclusive to everyone. But I'm more than happy for people to come forward and say, 'you know what that wasn't the case'."

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