Mark Wood revealed he withdrew from the Indian Premier League auction so he could spend time with his family and to ensure he was not "goosed mentally or physically" in a big year for England.

Wood had put himself forward for an IPL stint at the highest base price (2 crore/£200,000), but opted out on the eve of the auction this week.

The paceman's decision came after he flew to India for the remainder of the Test series, five Twenty20 Internationals and three ODIs.

Wood, who was given time off after the Sri Lanka tour last month, says playing for England in his priority, with the T20 World Cup and an Ashes series in Australia to come after a busy summer on home soil - including facing India again.

The quick said: "I'm going to spend six weeks here in India and then it would be another eight weeks on top of that, so that's 14 weeks.

"We're in a strange situation with COVID and unfortunately you can't see your families during that winter period coming out with India, like we usually do. 

"I just wanted to be able to switch off, recharge and go back home for the second reason, which is being ready for England. 

"I've tried to prioritise that and think later on in the year we've got loads of cricket going on and I don't want my body to fail me or be a bit goosed mentally or physically going into the back of the year, with a World Cup, Ashes and big series against India at home.

"I wanted to make sure I was ready from that point of view and have some family time because this block is a long time away from home."

England all-rounder Moeen Ali was snapped up by Chennai Super Kings for £700,000 on Thursday and although Wood knows he may have missed out on a lucrative deal, the 31-year-old hopes to get another chance to play in the IPL.

"Obviously there's been some big names gone for some big money and never begrudge them that, I think it's life-changing money, so it was a difficult decision for me," he said on Friday.

"The plus side is you're not just going for money reasons, you want to prove [yourself] hopefully going into the World T20 and learn some skills. Plus I feel like I've got a little bit of unfinished business with the IPL, I feel like I didn't do very well well in one game for Chennai last time [in 2018].

"I'd like another crack at some point, I just didn't feel like the time was right. Every player has their own decision, but for me it was to prioritise my family and England."

Sam Curran has been ruled out of England's plans for the ongoing Test series against India because flying him in for the fourth match would have been too complicated.

It had been intended that Curran would travel to Ahmedabad to be available for what will be England's final Test of the tour, starting on March 4.

But the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said on Thursday that "making secure arrangements for such a journey proved too great a logistical challenge".

Surrey all-rounder Curran played in both of England's Tests against Sri Lanka in January, but he returned home after the series – alongside Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood – in order to take a break from the team's biosecure bubble.

While Bairstow and Wood have returned to training and are expected to be able to play in the third Test next week, Curran was given extra time off. The 22-year-old, who also represented Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, has spent extended time in team bubbles since July 2020.

England take on India in five Twenty20 internationals and three ODI matches throughout March, and Curran will join members of the limited-overs squad travelling on a charter flight on February 26. He will arrive too late to be considered for the final Test, the ECB indicated.

With no direct flights available from the United Kingdom, Curran would have had to make a stop-over on his way to the Ahmedabad Test. That would have added more risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus, while he would have had to isolate on his arrival in India had any other passenger on his commercial flights returned a positive test.

An ECB spokesman said: "To give Sam the best chance of minimising his risk of exposure to the virus, it was decided to delay his return so that he could travel on the charter flight with the white-ball squad members due to fly on 26 February."

Over 21 Tests with England, Curran has taken 44 wickets for an average of 32.52, while he has 14 limited-overs wickets to his name.

Chris Silverwood has apologised to Moeen Ali over the miscommunication of why he will play no further part in England's Test series against India.

England captain Joe Root stated that all-rounder Moeen had chosen to go home following a crushing defeat in the second Test in Chennai on Monday.

Root suggested Moeen needed a break from life in a bio-secure bubble, with the selectors also managing workloads in a such a hectic year for England.

Head coach Silverwood set the record straight on Wednesday, stating it had already been decided that Moeen – who tested positive for COVID-19 early in the tour of Sri Lanka last month – would fly home.

Silverwood said: "First of all, we're sorry. The impression we gave yesterday was Moeen's been treated different to other people. He isn't, I can guarantee you that.

"The decision for him to go home was ours as it was with [Jos] Buttler, Sam [Curran], [Jonny] Bairstow and [Mark] Wood, to be honest. So, we're happy to own that decision.

"It was a unique situation with Moeen. He had spent so long in isolation, getting COVID out in Sri Lanka, and he had just broken back into the team. The question was posed to him [over whether he wanted to stay in India], do you know what I mean?

"We try and work as closely as we can with players to make sure they get the best opportunities as well as looking after them. So it was asked. But ultimately, we felt it was the right decision for him to go home."

Silverwood said Moeen understands the team management policy after he took eight wickets before smashing a quickfire 43 in his first Test since August 2019.

He added: "I think it's the life we're living at the moment. We have to prioritise looking after our players and we're doing the best we can. Being locked in a bubble for long periods of time is difficult, especially with people who have families at home.

"We have to be very respectful that people need to see families. And equally families need to see them as well.

"We touched base with Mo last night – as did Joe – and he was fine. He understands we've got his best interests at heart and we're trying to look after him just like all the other players in the strange times we're in."

Former England seamer Silverwood says Moeen can still have a big part to play for his country in the longest format.

"We're trying to build a big group of players we can use moving forward," Silverwood said. "The planning and building for the Ashes started a long time ago and we're continuing to build that group of players.

"At any given point, anybody can play. Moeen is a very big part of that."

Umesh Yadav has replaced Shardul Thakur in India's squad to face England in the final two Tests of their four-match series.

Virat Kohli's men responded to their 227-run defeat in the opening match with an even more resounding 317-run triumph this week.

After those matches in Chennai, the series will conclude with back-to-back games in Ahmedabad - the first of which will be a day-night Test.

That might mean an increased emphasis on seam bowling, making Umesh's return from the calf injury he sustained during the Boxing Day Test against Australia in Melbourne timely.

The 33-year-old, who has 148 Test wickets at 30.54, will undergo a fitness test before joining up with his team-mates and a fast-bowling group of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj.

Thakur has not featured in the England series and was released alongside reserves Priyank Panchal, Abhimanyu Easwaran and Shahbaz Nadeem to take part in India's domestic 50-over competition.

Opening batsman Easwaran being allowed to depart suggests the forearm injury that kept Shubman Gill off the field on day four of the second Test is not something that will threaten his participation next week.

 

India squad for the third and fourth Tests against England: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav.

Jeetan Patel says England must learn from how Ravichandran Ashwin and Virat Kohli mastered such tough conditions as the tourists prepare to "shake a stick" at pulling off an unlikely win in Chennai.

India are well on course to levelling the four-match series at 1-1 after dominating the third day at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium on Monday.

Ashwin was the star of the show on his home ground, making a brilliant 106 after taking 5-43 on day two, and captain Kohli struck 62 as India recovered from 106-6 to post 286 all out in their second innings.

England were in deep trouble on 53-3 at stumps, needing a mammoth 429 more runs to go 2-0 up, with Kohli's side looking destined to seal a crushing victory.

Axar Patel dismissed Dom Sibley and nightwatchman Jack Leach either side of the magnificent Ashwin getting rid of Rory Burns as India tightened their grip on a pitch that has turned sharply from day one.

Dan Lawrence and Joe Root made it through to stumps and England spin bowling consultant Patel expects the tourists to show fight when they resume on day four.

The former New Zealand spinner said: "I think Ashwin and Kohli were fantastic.

"Kohli, right from the first innings where maybe his footwork was I suppose a touch lazy compared to the second innings – where he was fantastic with the way he got down to the ball and across his stumps.

"The way he forced us to bowl in areas he wanted to, we need to take heed from that. Especially with the way Ashwin came out and swept early, got the field he wanted and then could manipulate the lengths from there.

"They are in a really strong position, there is no doubt about that, but we are going to have work really hard to grab some of that back."

He added: "There's still lots to do, but there's match-winners in this group, we've seen that before.

"I'm not about to say that we are 100 per cent going to win this game, but what I am going to say is we will shake a stick at it."

Patel says it is vital England take a positive approach as they try to dig themselves out of a huge hole.

"I think it's just to keep staying positive, we've got stroke-makers in the group and we want them to keep expressing themselves," he said. 

"The thing that has been the strengths so far in the three matches we have played in the subcontinent is to still try to score. 

"If we sit there and try to defend for two days, we're going to have much success and we're not going to go anywhere in the game. We can certainly look to learn a lot about ourselves while looking to score.

"I think Dan Lawrence was fantastic, the way he played this evening was exactly how he wants to play cricket and how he can contribute to this team."

Ravichandran Ashwin scored a magnifcent century on his home ground as India made England toil on day three of the second Test in Chennai.

India need seven wickets to level the four-match series after all-rounder Ashwin made a sublime 106 on a sharply turning pitch at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium on Monday.

Ashwin played with great application and skill to craft a fifth hundred in the longest format, having also taken 5-43 as England were bowled out for only 134 on the second day.

Captain Virat Kohli made 62 but it was all about Ashwin, roared on by a vociferous crowd, once again as India were bowled out for 286 – setting the tourists a mammoth 482 to win.

The excellent Axar Patel dismissed Dom Sibley and nightwatchman Jack Leach, while Ashwin got rid of Rory Burns to leave England 53-3 at stumps and facing a huge defeat.

Moeen Ali (4-98) and Jack Leach (4-100) thrived on a track that has offered significant turn from day one as India lost five wickets in the morning session.

Ashwin and Kohli mastered the conditions impressively to strengthen India's grip on the match, though, putting on 96 for the seventh wicket.

Moeen saw the back of Kohli, who spent five hours at the crease and struck seven boundaries, but went from strength to strength in an imperious knock, hitting a six and 14 fours.

England were finally put out of their misery when Olly Stone cleaned up Ashwin after Mohammed Siraj added insult to injury with a couple of lusty blows over the rope.

Axar (2-15) then got Sibley lbw for only three and Ashwin had Burns (25) caught by Kohli, before Leach fended the first ball he faced from his fellow left-armer to Rohit Sharma at leg slip.

India were convinced Joe Root should have been adjudged lbw when he was struck in front by Axar, but the third umpire ruled he was hit outside the line of off stump in the final over of a great day for India.

 

False dawn for England

The tourists started the third day on the ropes, with India leading by 249 runs on 54-1 after 15 wickets tumbled on a dramatic day two.

Cheteshwar Pujara fell in the first over, comically run out when he lost his grip on his bat after jamming it in the pitch and was out of his ground following fine work from Ollie Pope at short leg.

India were 106-6 with Rohit, Rishabh Pant, Ajinkya Rahane and Axar back in the pavilion, as Ben Foakes produced two excellent stumpings for Leach and Moeen.

Ashwin and Kohli rub England's noses in it

The magnificent Ashwin put England in a spin on Sunday and showed his class with the bat in front of his adoring crowd in what is turning out to be a dream Test for the all-rounder.

Ashwin and the classy Kohli made England suffer on a hot day, with Root's tiring side becoming increasingly sloppy in the field with a combination of dropped catches and a missed stumping.

Kohli looked untroubled until he was pinned in front by Moeen, but Ashwin continued to take a positive approach after bringing up a 64-ball half-century.

He smashed Moeen for a huge six to move three shy of three figures and there was a huge roar when he struck a streaky boundary to complete a brilliant hundred. Only Ian Botham (five) has scored a century and taken a five-wicket haul in the same Test more times than Ashwin's three.

Ravichandran Ashwin said he never envisaged bowling for his country when he was a teenager let alone taking more Test wickets in India than Harbhajan Singh after tormenting England on Sunday.

Ashwin took 5-43 on a dramatic day two in Chennai, where the tourists were bowled out for only 134 in reply to India's 329 all out.

Virat Kohli's side were 54-1 at stumps – leading by 249 runs – and well on course to level the four-match series.

Ashwin generated huge turn and bounce, with the spinner's drift also causing the England batsmen all sorts of trouble.

Only the great Anil Kumble (350) has more Test scalps than Ashwin in India after the 34-year-old moved past Harbhajan's total of 265.

Ashwin vividly recalls watching Harbhajan take 15 wickets in Chennai to secure a series win over Australia 20 years ago, and expressed his pride after bettering the Indian great's tally of scalps on home soil.

"When I watched the 2000-01 series, when Bhajju Pa [Harbhajan] played, I didn't even imagine I would go on to become an off-spinner for my country," Ashwin said.

"I was still a batsman for my state. Trying to accelerate towards batting and playing for my country. I wasn't even sure I would go on to become a player for the Indian team.

"Lots of my team-mates from that age, from that generation, used to make fun of me because in my action I used to try to bowl like Bhajju Pa.

"From there on to come on and go past him has to be incredibly special. I didn't know of it. Now that I know of it, I am incredibly happy. Sorry, Bhajju Pa."

Ashwin put England under huge pressure in such tough conditions as he took his 29th five-wicket Test haul – putting him level with Glenn McGrath in seventh on the all-time list.

The wily Ashwin has now claimed the wickets of 200 left-handers in the longest format, a landmark he reached by bowling Stuart Broad.

Ravichandran Ashwin claimed his second successive five-wicket haul as India skittled England out cheaply on day two to put themselves in total command of the second Test.

Fifteen wickets tumbled on what look more like a final-day pitch at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium on Sunday, with Moeen Ali (4-128) and Olly Stone both striking twice to bowl India out for 329.

The tourists, leading the four-match series 1-0, were dismissed for only 134 in reply, giving India a first-innings lead of 195 runs in Chennai.

Jack Leach got rid of Shubman Gill but first-innings centurion Rohit Sharma was unbeaten on 25 at stumps, with in complete control on 54-1 - leading by 249 runs.

Ashwin followed up his six-wicket haul in the second innings of the first Test by taking 5-43 in a brilliant exhibition of spin bowling in dream conditions for the spinner, who generated sharp turn and bounce.

Ishant Sharma (2-22) trapped Rory Burns leg before without scoring and Dom Sibley fell for 16 after India added only 29 runs to their overnight total of 300-6.

Debutant Axar Patel (2-40) claimed the huge scalp of in-form England captain Joe Root, caught by Ashwin at short fine leg for only six to become the spinner's first Test victim.

England were reeling on 39-4 after Ashwin got big turn and bounce to see the back of Dan Lawrence and there were more roars from a crowd of 10,000 when the wily tweaker bowled Ben Stokes (18) early in the afternoon session.

Ollie Pope made 22 before falling to Mohammed Siraj and although Ben Foakes (42 not out) played superbly against the spinners, England were all out from 59.5 overs when Stuart Broad was cleaned up by Ashwin.

Leach snared Gill lbw and Rohit successfully reviewed after he was given out in the same fashion but got an inside edge, while also possibly getting away with it when he padded up not offering a shot, but India are well on course to level the series.

England are back to being themselves after recovering from last week's defeat to Scotland with a 41-18 victory over Italy on Saturday, according to captain Owen Farrell.

The reigning champions ran in six tries to claim a bonus-point victory at Twickenham, a week on from losing 11-6 to Calcutta Cup rivals Scotland.

Monty Ioane put Italy ahead early on but Jonny Hill gave England lift-off with their opening try and Anthony Watson crossed over either side of Jonny May's 32nd Test try.

Jack Willis touched down on his debut and, though Tommaso Allan added a second for Italy, it was plain sailing for the home side as Elliot Daly ran through down the left.

And while accepting England were far from their best against Italy, Farrell was pleased with the way they responded to their opening loss.

"We're back to being 'us' there," he told ITV. "It wasn't a perfect performance, not the best we've ever had, but in terms of the feeling, the energy and the intent, that felt back to 'us'..

"We had some honest conversations with ourselves during the week... there was excitement to get on the training field and put things right. 

"And the way that we built up showed in the way that we played. I thought we attacked the game. 

"Obviously they had an advantage to move the ball and they ended up scoring a try, which was probably a bit over over-eagerness from us

"But after that I thought our intent was brilliant. We got in behind them, probably not everything went our way, but we stuck at it and the game ended up going our way."

England have now won each of their 22 Six Nations fixtures against Italy, who have lost their last 29 matches in the competition in a run stretching back to February 2015.

The Azzurri offered promising glimpses, not least with their second-quickest ever Six Nations try through Ioane, but England ultimately proved too strong on home soil.

"Credit to Italy, they were tough, they never gave up, and we knew they were going to do that," said England prop Kyle Sinckler. 

"Up front they were strong, their forwards carried hard, their backs had good energy... it was a tough, tough test match but our boys got stuck in there and got the win."

Echoing the thoughts of skipper Farrell, Sinckler hailed England's response to last week's rare home loss.

"I think it was a step in right direction. I think our intent was a lot better today, especially up front," he said. 

"We probably didn't get the rewards we wanted, but in terms of the intent, and showing how much it means to us to play for our country, I think it was a step in the right direction.

"We were obviously very frustrated with the performance last week, and we knew we had to step up and play the England way, and the way we want to dominate up front. 

"We did that at times today, but we know there's so much more to give. But like I said, it was a step in the right direction. The game's done, we move on to the next one."

Next up for England is a showdown with Wales at the Principality Stadium on February 27.

Joe Root urged Dom Bess to find consistency after he was left out of the England squad for the second Test against India.

The tourists have opted for a new-look bowling attack in the second meeting at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, despite winning the opening match of the series by 227 runs at the same venue.

Bess drops out of the reckoning, with James Anderson and the injured Jofra Archer also missing out, paving the way for Stuart Broad to come back in and Moeen Ali to return.

Having taken five wickets in the four-match series opener and scored 59 runs with the bat, Bess was offered some words of advice by captain Root.

"It wasn't an easy decision; Dom's contributed fantastically well in these three games and has made a real impact," Root said.

"With him missing out, the message for him is to keep working at that consistency of his game, delivering that skill time and time again. We talk about building pressure over long periods of time and I think, as well as he has done, that is one area that he can improve on.

"But he is very young, very much at the start of things and this doesn't mean that he is going to be pushed back down the pecking order.

"It gives him an opportunity to step out of Test cricket, the harshest of environments, especially in these conditions against a team that plays spin so well, to take stock and work at his game.

"It gives Moeen a chance to come back into things, with all his experience. He's someone who is bowling very well in practice.

"It was a very difficult decision to make, I'm sure Bessy will be frustrated about it but that's good as well. You want that competition for places, you want guys to be playing all the time and be amongst it all

"That's certainly how he goes about his cricket. He's a wholehearted player and I expect a response from him."

Root is certainly well placed to talk about consistency, having once again underlined his brilliance last time out when he clocked up a first-innings double century in his 100th Test appearance to continue riding the wave of his fine showing against Sri Lanka.

The 30-year-old has piled on 684 runs in his previous three matches, which equates to 39 per cent of his side's total runs in Test cricket in 2021. 

Fans hoping to see the Yorkshireman showcasing his skills in the Indian Premier League will once again be disappointed this year, but Root does want to get involved in the future.

"It was a very difficult decision," he said regarding his decision not to register. 

"At some point in my career I'm desperate to try and be part of an IPL season and hopefully a few more beyond that as well.

"It's something I'd love to experience and love to be a part of, but with the amount of cricket – and Test cricket in particular – this year, I didn’t feel like it was the right time.

"I didn’t feel like I could throw all my energy into it, which I think it deserves. And I don’t think it would set English cricket up best with what's to come.

"It's a very difficult decision and hopefully next year there's an opportunity to be a part of the IPL."

The atmosphere at games is one of the IPL's most appealing qualities and the famously vociferous India fans will have a chance to make themselves heard in the second Test, with 15,000 allowed in.

Asked if he thinks it will change the dynamic of the contest, Root said: "Yes, I do. I think it will improve it massively

"I think having an atmosphere within a stadium is a massive part of international cricket.

"What makes it special, in many ways, is that interaction between the fans and the players. It makes those big moments, that noise and the build-up… it adds to it all

"Obviously, we know how passionate India is about cricket. It's a big part of life in many ways here and we're all excited about that.

"We want to be playing on the biggest stage in front of people. We're looking forward to that atmosphere and it's going to add to what has already started off as a brilliant series for us."

Wayne Rooney believes Phil Foden and Jack Grealish are too good to be left out of the England starting XI for Euro 2020.

Manchester City youngster Foden starred with a goal and an assist in the 4-1 away win at Premier League champions Liverpool last week.

He is gaining momentum after being handed more opportunities by manager Pep Guardiola.

Grealish, meanwhile, has thrived for Aston Villa this season, establishing himself as one of the Premier League's leading players with six top-flight goals and 10 assists.

Rooney is England's record goalscorer and thinks the form of the two attacking midfielders has become impossible to ignore ahead of the tournament.

"They have to be in the squad and arguably have to play because they are that good," the Derby County boss said about Foden and Grealish.

"Phil Foden has been one of the best players in the league this season, I think Guardiola has managed him really well.

"For Phil, it's about keeping doing what he's doing. He's one of the best players in the league this season.

"Foden is performing excellently — scoring, assisting — and hopefully he can carry that form on with England. He is entertaining to watch. 

"When my lad [Kai] used to go into City, I used to see Phil there.

"I spoke to him a couple of times and I could see he's a very level-headed lad. He was there a lot of the time, but it was just general chat, not me giving him advice.

"There are a few players — not just him. I think Jack Grealish brings something different for the national team."

Foden made his England debut away to Iceland in September but was promptly removed from the squad along with Mason Greenwood for breaking coronavirus protocols.

He responded by scoring a double - his first international goals - in the home match against Iceland in November.

Grealish, meanwhile, has five England caps and manager Gareth Southgate has spoken about the dilemma he faces over whether to play him or Chelsea's Mason Mount.

England will have a new-look bowling attack on duty for the second Test as they go up against an India side determined to bounce back in the series.

James Anderson, Jofra Archer and Dom Bess were all part of the XI that helped England become the first visiting nation to win a Test at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai since Pakistan in 1999, ending an eight-game unbeaten streak for the hosts.

However, none of the trio will be involved when the two teams face each other again at the same venue.

While Archer is ruled out with an elbow injury, Anderson has been rested and Bess left out of a 12-man squad. Stuart Broad seems certain to play, with the other seam-bowling spot between Chris Woakes and Olly Stone. Moeen Ali will be the second spinner; the all-rounder has not featured in Test cricket since August 2019.

Captain Joe Root admitted it was not an easy decision to give Anderson a break considering how well he performed in the opener, but England had to look at the bigger picture during such a busy year.

"Everyone's heart was in favour of him being available for this game but also you have to look at the bigger picture and ideally if he is available for two of the last three, that is a huge asset for us with the way he is bowling and his reputation, as well as his numbers and the way he has performed in recent games," Root told the media.

India, meanwhile, head into this match under pressure; they have only ever lost the first two games of a home Test series against England once previously, when they went on to suffer a 3-1 defeat in 1976-77.

Virat Kohli pointed to a failure by the bowling unit to keep England's scoring rate in check in the aftermath of the opening defeat, with slow-bowling duo Washington Sundar and Shahbaz Nadeem struggling to provide support for pacemen Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma, as well as frontline spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.

Axar Patel missed that match due to a knee injury but came through a fitness test on Thursday. Kuldeep Yadav could also get an opportunity on a pitch that, according to Ajinkya Rahane, will spin from the outset.

"I am sure it will turn from day one," Rahane said on the eve of the game. "We will have to wait and see how it behaves in the first session and take it from there."

In a boost for India, there will be fans present for the second of four matches in the series. The ground is allowed to be 50 per cent full, though there will be social distancing measures in place amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.


Captain Kohli in the spotlight

India have now lost four Tests in a row under Kohli, who departed the tour of Australia after his side had been shot out for 36 to lose the series opener in Adelaide. He returned home for the birth of his first child, with stand-in Rahane then leading the side to a 2-1 triumph.

Kohli made scores of 11 and 72 upon his return to the XI, but those numbers were not enough to stop him slipping to fifth in the International Cricket Council's Test rankings for batsmen.

Root keeps on digging in

Root underpinned England's triumph last time out with a double hundred in a mammoth first innings of 578, in the process continuing his stunning run of form following on from a hugely successful tour to Sri Lanka.

The right-handed batsman has managed 684 runs in his previous three matches, which equates to 39 per cent of his side's total runs in Test cricket in 2021. There have been useful contributions from his top-order colleagues so far overseas, but no other batsman has reached three figures in an innings during the calendar year.

Key match facts

- England have only managed to register one Test series win in India since their 2-1 tour win in 1984-85 - their successful tour in 2012 being the solitary triumph during that period (D1 L4).
- India still lead the head-to-head record with England in Tests played at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, winning five compared to the visitors' tally of four after the series opener (D1).
- England have managed to record six overseas Test wins in succession ahead of this match – victory in this game will equal their longest ever run in the format (seven in a row between 1911 and 1914).
- Rishabh Pant has a batting strike rate of 70.6 in Test cricket, only two men (with a minimum of 600 runs scored) have higher rates for India (Virender Sehwag at 82, plus Kapil Dev at 81)
- Broad (517) is three scalps away from going into sixth place on the all-time leading Test wicket-takers list, jumping above Courtney Walsh (519); the Englishman has picked up 41 wickets at an average of 14.5 since the start of 2020.

Buoyant Scotland will go in search of back-to-back wins over Wales for the first time in 18 years and France travel to Ireland for a mouthwatering Six Nations showdown this weekend.

Scotland ended a 38-year wait for a win at Twickenham on the opening weekend with a dominant 11-6 defeat of the defending champions.

Gregor Townsend's side need to follow that up on Saturday with a victory over a Wales side that got the better of 14-man Ireland at the Principality Stadium following Peter O'Mahony's first-half red card.

France started the tournament by hammering Italy 50-10, but will face a bigger test in Dublin, while England should respond to their Calcutta Cup defeat by beating Italy at home on Saturday.

Ahead of the second round, we preview the upcoming matches with help from Opta.

 

ENGLAND v ITALY

FORM

The Red Rose have won each of their 21 fixtures against Italy in the Six Nations, and they are the only team yet to suffer defeat against the Azzurri in the championship.

England have hosted Italy on 10 occasions in the Six Nations, winning each of those 10 fixtures by an average margin of 31 points and scoring 5.6 tries per game.

Italy have won just twice away from home in the Six Nations (losing 50 and drawing one), with both victories coming against Scotland at Murrayfield (2007 and 2015).

 

ONES TO WATCH

George Ford comes into the England side, with captain Owen Farrell moving to outside centre, in one of five changes to the side, and the fly-half will be ready to make a statement after being named on the bench for the loss to Scotland.

Italy endured a torrid start to the competition, but Luca Sperandio scored a fine try. The wing had seven carries and made 52 metres. The Azzurri will need to get Sperandio flying down the flank again in London.

 

SCOTLAND v WALES

FORM

Scotland were superb against England and will be aiming for consecutive wins over Wales in the Six Nations for the first time since 2002-2003.

Wales had an extra man, but Ireland could consider themselves unfortunate to go down 21-16 in Cardiff. The Welsh have lost their last six Tests away from home and will be in for another huge battle at Murrayfield.

They have conceded 30 points per game in that miserable sequence of matches on their travels.

 

ONES TO WATCH

Captain Stuart Hogg was man of the match in a rousing performance from Scotland against Eddie Jones' men. The full-back made 112 metres and had 13 carries. He was also brilliant with the boot, kicking for 367 metres.

Louis Rees-Zammit showed why he is so highly rated in Wales' win over Ireland. He dived to finish magnificently in the corner as Wayne Pivac's side made a winning start at home last Sunday.

 

IRELAND v FRANCE

FORM

Flanker O'Mahony's reckless dismissal proved to be costly for Andy Farrell's Ireland side in Cardiff. They will be looking to avoid suffer back-to-back losses to Les Bleus in the Six Nations, having not endured such a fate since 2010-11.

Ireland have won five of their last seven clashes with France in the Six Nations (L2) after winning only four of their 30 previous meetings with them in the Five/Six Nations (D3 L23).

 

ONES TO WATCH

Antoine Dupont was the player of the opening round of the tournament. The mercurial scrum-half assisted four tries, the joint-most by any player in a Six Nations match, equalling the record set by Frederic Michalak against Italy in 2006. He also scored a try of his own in a sublime performance.

Ireland lock Tadhg Beirne made the most carries (21) of any player in the opening round. He also hit the most rucks of any player (48) and was Ireland’s joint-highest tackler (10, level with CJ Stander).

England paceman Jofra Archer has been ruled out of the second Test against India with an elbow injury.

Archer took three wickets in the match as Joe Root's team thrashed India by 227 runs in the series opener in Chennai.

The quick will not be in the England side when the second game gets under way at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Saturday, though.

An England and Wales Cricket Board statement read: "Jofra Archer will miss the second Test against India in Chennai starting on Saturday after having an injection in his right elbow.

"The injection follows discomfort the fast bowler experienced during the 227-run win in the first Test at the same venue.

"The issue is not related to any previous injury and it is hoped the treatment will allow the condition to settle down quickly, allowing the player to return to action in time for the third Test in Ahmedabad."

Stuart Broad is set to come into the team and James Anderson is hoping he is not rested after playing a big part in England's crushing victory in the first match.

Olly Stone is also waiting in the wings for his opportunity, with Mark Wood not back in the squad until after the second Test, having been given a rest.

England have named Liam Livingstone in a 16-man squad for the Twenty20 series against India in March, but Test captain Joe Root and Alex Hales were not included.

Livingstone has not played international cricket since June 2017, when he scored 16 runs in a pair of T20 appearances against South Africa on English soil.

However, the 27-year-old was part of the group for the one-day series at home to Ireland last year, as well as the tour to South Africa that was cut short in December due to coronavirus concerns.

His selection comes after an impressive Big Bash tournament in Australia, though Hales – who finished as the competition's leading scorer, managing 543 at a strike-rate of 161.60 for Sydney Thunder – continues to be overlooked by the national selectors.

Root is also not included for the five-match series that offers Eoin Morgan's side further opportunities to prepare ahead of the ICC T20 World Cup, which takes place in India during October and November.

Jos Buttler – who has returned home for a scheduled break after helping England win the first Test against India in Chennai – will travel back for the white-ball games.

As well as the players in the squad, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced Jake Ball and Matt Parkinson as reserves. The party will depart on February 26, with all games to be played at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad.


England T20 squad for the tour to India: 

Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Reece Topley, Mark Wood.

Reserves: Jake Ball, Matt Parkinson.

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