England v India
Friday 9 September 15.00
TV: live on Sky Sports
England make changes
England will make changes following defeat at The Oval, a loss which puts them in danger of back-to-back home defeats in the same summer for the first time since 1986.
Jos Buttler returns as wicketkeeper after he missed game four for the birth of his daughter. This jeopardises Jonny Bairstow’s involvement. Either him or Ollie Pope may have to miss out but surely it’s the Surrey man who keeps his place after top-scoring in the first-innings on his home ground.
Changes are afoot in the bowling group. Jack Leach could join Moeen Ali if England feel the surface will spin, although they played only one spinner against West Indies and Pakistan (three Tests combined) last year at the venue. James Anderson and Ollie Robinson are feared to be exhausted but surely at least one will play. Mark Wood should get a game instead of Craig Overton on a surface which could suit his pace and bounce.
Probable XI Burns, Hameed, Malan, Root, Pope, Buttler, Moeen, Woakes, Robinson, Anderson, Wood
Ashwin may be snubbed again
India are cock-a-hoop about the prospect of a historic win in England. But they need to get their selection right if they are to realise ambitions.
We say it every game but surely Ravi Ashwin comes into this team? His continued absence, and Virat Kohli’s captaincy skills, are discussed in length on this week’s Cricket…Only Bettor.
In short, an Ashwin-less India would have left many punters with a bet they didn’t want pre-toss in south London. If Kohli’s issues with Ashwin are insurmountable, Axar Patel is the halfway house.
Otherwise, expect India to rest Mohammad Siraj and bring back one from Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma. Shardul Thakur is probably undroppable despite his bowling leaving punters cold.
Possible XI Rohit, Rahul, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Jadeja, Pant, Thakur, Axar, Bumrah, Ishant
Old Trafford is a result wicket. There has been one draw in the last eight and the action is rarely dull. Last year England chased 277 against Pakistan, recovering from almost certain defeat.
The wicket normally turns, although Yasir Shah will still wonder how he failed to spin Pakistan to the win. England, however, failed to even give Dom Bess a bowl in that second match against West Indies
The last eight first-innings match scores (1-2 denote won by side batting first or second) read: 326-2/369-1/469-1/497-1/362-1/589-1/152-1/527-d. With the wicket so good batting first, India will expect to punish England’s bowlers further. The runs par line looks a buy at around 310.5.
More important is the weather forecast. Rain is a minimum 41% chance from 13.00 on day. The rest of the Test is predicted cloudy weather.
Stalemate is short
India are a superior team to England, who have two wins in their last ten. We have said that consistently throughout the series. England are 3.1085/40 (a poor price) and India 3.6013/5.
So it is a surprise they are not clear favourites. Instead it is the stalemate which takes top billing at a surprisingly skinny 2.427/5. That gives us an opportunity to keep England on side just in case Kohli once again gets his way with the Ashwin selection.
There seems to have been an overreaction to the weather forecast, which is really not at all bad. And even if there was a day here or there with predicted heavy rain we’d be laying at that price.
In-play it may well get even shorter, particularly if India bat first. The seam and swing which troubled India in first-innings at Leeds and The Oval might not be a problem on a flatter, harder surface. And they are in no rush whatsoever.
Joe Root has been boosted to 6/4 for top England bat in the first dig. That’s not a price to get excited about. Likewise Kohli at 10/3 because his technique looks shot. Viable alternatives for England are Dawid Malan at 5s and Chet Pujara, who looked in good nick last time out, at 7/2 respectively.
Man of the match prices worth mentioning are Root at 7s, Pujara at 14s and Ashwin at 12s. The latter is also 7/2 for India first-innings bowler.
Kohli is a problem. This week on Cricket…Only Bettor