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India aim improvement against confident England in 2nd Test (Preview)

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Visakhapatnam, Nov 16 (IANS) India will look to apply themselves better when the hosts will take on a confident England in the second Test match at the ACA-VDCA cricket stadium here on Thursday.

India who looked nearly invincible on the home pitches with the ingenuity of spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, accuracy of Ravindra Jadeja and experience of leg-spinner Amit Mishra, were cornered and were forced to play for the draw in the opening Test.

India's batting line-up failed to rise to the challenge when they needed 310 at a run-rate of just over five on a fifth-day track.

While Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara came up with a century each in the first innings, Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane failed to respond.

But the Virat Kohli-led side can take good things from this as, despite losing early wickets, he along with lower-order batsmen Ashwin, stumper Wriddhiman Saha and Jadeja took India out of the woods and managed a draw.

The latest addition of in-form opener Lokesh Rahul, who was sidelined from the first Test squad due to an injury, will also give a big boost to the team confidence as Gambhir, who replaced an injured Shikhar Dhawan in the New Zealand series, failed to gave the hosts the start they wanted in both the innings against England.

Commenting on the choice of openers, captain Kohli hinted that Rahul might play in place of Gambhir. "We are pretty clear in our mind that KL (Lokesh Rahul) is our number one choice along with Murali Vijay. and when he is fit at any stage he will come back in the team and we will start with him," Kohli said at the pre-match media conference.

"We are waiting for him to get fit as soon as possible and in the meantime Gautam got the chances and he played really well in the different situations and that's how team combinations go."

"I cannot give any pointers about what we are going to do, all possibilities... You might see a few surprises in the team."

The bowling department, which has been firmly put in its place by Kohli against New Zealand, also looked a bit lost against England as it failed to put the pressure on the English opening duo of Alastair Cook and Haseeb Hameed.

Mohammad Shami's fitness once again came into the limelight after he suffered a hamstring cramp in the first innings and as a result England posted a mammoth 537.

Along with Shami, who bowled in the second innings, Umesh Yadav, Mishra and Ashwin have to bowl the disciplined line and take wickets in order to come back strongly in the next match.

Hence, after a nervous draw at the sporting wicket in Rajkot, the hosts will now be hoping to keep things simple and repeat what they have been doing over the last two home series.

On the other hand, England, who came to India after the lacklustre performance against minnows Bangladesh, somehow managed to put things together against Anil Kumble-coached side.

Promising opener Hameed as well as Joe Root along with skipper Cook and Moeen Ali have impressed the critics who had predicted them to be tormented by the Indian spin attack.

In terms of batting, England seemed much more stable than the hosts as their four players -- Cook, Joe Root, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes -- slammed centuries as compared to India's two.

The bowling department, which created problems for Indian batsmen throughout the match also filled the team with confidence after the inclusion of star pacer James Anderson. He had missed the first Test due to injury.

Going into the match, the visitors hold psychological advantage against the hosts but they have few loopholes to work on to take a crucial lead in the five-Test series.

Squads:

India: Virat Kohli (captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Gautam Gambhir, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Karun Nair, Hardik Pandya, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Lokesh Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Murali Vijay, Jayant Yadav, Umesh Yadav

England: Alastair Cook (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Zafar Ansari, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Jake Ball, Gary Balance, Gareth Batty, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Duckett, Steven Finn, Haseeb Hameed, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes.

--IANS

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