5 key battles that will decide the India vs England Test series
In perhaps one of the most significant Test series of our time, India have landed in England with an aim to establish themselves as a truly great side.
Over the past three years, since Virat Kohli has taken over the captaincy, India have beaten every team they have faced at home. However, the bogey that has haunted previous Indian teams remains: whether this team can beat England, Australia or South Africa away from home.
Kohli’s squad have only had one opportunity, losing away from home to South Africa earlier this year. Now they go to face an inconsistent English side which is still formidable at home.
Like any test series, this series will be decided by a few key battles. In 2011, James Anderson troubled Sachin Tendulkar like very few bowlers have managed to, and that was a major reason behind India’s loss.
The series before that, Zaheer Khan’s domination of English star opener Andrew Strauss gave the whole side confidence.
So what are some key battles that will decide the fate of India vs England Test series 2018? Here goes:
5. Ajinkya Rahane vs Moeen Ali
There is very little that can trouble Ajinkya Rahane. For 17 out of first 18 matches in his career, the Mumbai batsman was on tour as he became one of the very few Indian batsmen to dominate overseas.
Rahane made hundreds in New Zealand, England, Australia and Sri Lanka, while making a 90+ score in the South Africa. Yet, Rahane has struggled relatively when playing in India, averaging 32.87 at home compared to 52.05 away from home.
This has led to questions surrounding Rahane’s ability to play spin. Most of these are overblown considering Rahane has played several great innings on rank turners, including a century in both innings against South Africa in Delhi, two centuries in Colombo and a 188 against New Zealand in Indore.
However, England will be looking at their spinners to exploit Rahane’s supposed weakness. And for that role, England have the perfect man: Moeen Ali.
While Ali was dropped for the Pakistan series (after a horrible tour down under), he is likely to be selected considering his exploits in the ODI series and his performance against India last time they were in England. Ali’s subtle turn could trouble Rahane - the Worcestershire all-rounder took Rahane’s wicket twice in 2014.
Considering that Rahane is one of the few batsmen that England cannot trouble with swing, they will be hoping that Ali can use variations against Rahane. As Ali is the rare off-spinner who likes bowling to right-hand batsmen, he might be one of England’s best hopes against Rahane. This is one of the battles that will define the series.