India will have the support of the home crowd for the first time in almost a year when it eyes a series-levelling win in the second Test against England starting at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Saturday.
Following a 227-run defeat in the opening Test, India must resist the temptation to bring in a host of fresh faces. Axar Patel has regained full fitness and is likely to make his Test debut on Friday. His inclusion will provide batting cushion at No. 7, likely paving the way for the return of Kuldeep Yadav. The left-arm chinaman last played a Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on the 2018-19 Australia tour.
There are signs that the pitch at Chepauk could take spin from day one, encouraging Virat Kohli to pick the third spinner, while Ishant Sharma remains the frontrunner to share fast-bowling duties with Jasprit Bumrah.
Meanwhile, India will be concerned by the form of one of its batting mainstays, Ajinkya Rahane. The vice-captain has scores of 4, 22, 24, 37, 1, 0 at an average of 14.66, since his match-winning 112 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the 2020-21 tour Down Under.
England announced its 12 for the second Test on the eve of the match. Ben Foakes, Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad and Olly Stone are in while Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Dom Bess and Jimmy Anderson are out.
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Archer is nursing a “niggle” in his right elbow while Anderson has been rested as part of England’s rotation policy for senior bowlers. Stone returned three for 29 in his only Test against Ireland in 2019 before a stress fracture of the back limited his appearances. Ali too is short on game time, having not bowled in red-ball cricket since an England intra-squad match in June 2020.
Foakes, who played his last Test against the West Indies in 2019, will keep wickets in place of Jos Buttler , who has returned home to rest. Captain Joe Root’s purple patch with the bat will pose a serious challenge to Kohli’s strategic skills. How India counters Root’s plan to use the sweep shot as an offensive ploy could decide the course of the match.
Race to WTC final
India will look to stake its claim for a berth in the World Test Championship final at Lord’s with a win in the second Test. The host side still needs at least two wins and a draw from the remaining three Tests to qualify. However, if it loses any of the next two Tests – one of which is a day/night affair in Ahmedabad – its qualification hopes will be up in smoke. England needs to win two of the remaining three Tests to stand a chance. Australia will go through if the series ends in a draw or England beats India by a 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 margin.