England are 1-0 up in the 5-match Test Series. That was after beating India at Edgbaston by 31 runs. The Second Test starts at Lord's on Thursday and there are good reasons to think England, the 2.0 favourites, must be opposed. Here they are:
- The First Test was close
When you’ve played for three and a half days, a win by 31 runs isn’t much. It proves what many thought before a ball was bowled: these are two very closely-matched sides. Had just the one Indian batsman bar Virat Kohli buckled down in the fourth innings, they would have won. The prices don’t reflect the gulf in difference between the two sides.
- Stokes absence will hurt England
As is the case with all champion all-rounders, they inevitably seem to always contribute with either bat or ball. Ian Botham or say Imran Khan were the same. For good measure, Stokes often makes a game-changing contribution as a fielder as well.
At Edgbaston it was with the ball, with Stokes taking six wickets in the game and perhaps most crucially of all, the wicket of Kohli in the fourth innings.
Except of course, there is no Stokes this time. This isn’t the time or place to discuss ‘that night’ in Bristol. Suffice to say he’s missing because he’ll be in court.
By all accounts Chris Woakes or Moeen Ali will play in his absence. Fine. Two perfectly good and experienced Test all-rounders. But the former has little cricket under his belt of late and the latter had been out-of-form in Tests for a while before finally being dropped in the Winter. Are we really meant to believe either of those two can go out at Lord's and do what Stokes does?
- India likely to learn from selection mistakes
India made two selection mistakes ahead of that Edgbaston Test. The first was to pick the dashing KL Rahul at Number 3 ahead of Chet Pujara. If it was an ODI or a T20 it would be a no contest: Rahul every time. But this is Test cricket. It’s not pretty 20s that win it, it’s long, grinding, patient, disciplined innings that win Tests. Admittedly Pujara had been somewhat out of form for Yorkshire in the build-up to the 1st Test. But the simple fact he’s been playing County cricket all summer in England and averages over 50 in Tests should have meant he should have played anyway. The selectors are unlikely to make the same mistakes again. Pujara will almost certainly play ahead of Rahul and India will be stronger for it.
They’ll also be better for playing left arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav. Not only will it probably turn more at Lord's than at Edgbaston anyway but even if it doesn’t, it’s always a good idea to play two spinners against England when possible. Proof of that was off-spinner Ravi Ashwin’s seven wickets in the first match. And what Yadav may lack in experience compared to Ashwin, he has in mystery balls. England won’t want Yadav to play and that tells you all you need to know.
Assuming India make these two changes, they’ll be far stronger.
- Kohli could be even better
A few people are suggesting England’s bowlers might start to have worked out Kohli. Really? Interesting, because I saw him score 200 effortless, ‘almost’ chanceless runs in the First Test. He got out playing an attacking shot in the first innings when batting with number 11 and made one mistake in the Second innings.
If anything, after those two excellent knocks he’s likely to be even better this time round after having had a look at England’s bowlers in English conditions, rather than the other way round where it’s England bowlers who are meant to have learnt something.
Kohli could easily score far more than 200 runs at Lord's and then the hosts will really be up against it.
- England don’t like it at Lord's
Ah, Lord’s. Home of cricket. HQ. England’s fortress. A big boost. Right? Wrong.
It may be all those things but historically, England don’t like playing at Lord’s. Consider this: in 134 Test matches played there, they won 53, lost 32 and drew 49. That’s a win/loss rate of just 1.656. Australia’s win rate at Lord’s is 2.42!
Contrast that with Edgbaston. In 51 games in Birmingham England have won 28, lost eight and drawn 15. That’s a win rate of 3.5 and over double what it is at Lord’s. So considering these historical stats, it’s perhaps hardly surprising that England won at Edgbaston.
Why is that? Hard to say. At Edgbaston the ball does swing a bit more than at Lord’s but that can’t be the full story.
A less ‘technical’ explanation could be this. At Lord’s the members are polite and well-behaved. They don’t exactly spur their team on. It’s a very different story at Edgbaston where a raucous crowd, often beer-fuelled (!) get behind their team and give them a boost when they need it. And of course the more that happens over the years, the more England win there and the more they believe they can win there next time.
The reasons aren’t as important as the bare stats. And they say England struggle at Lord’s.
England must be opposed at Lord’s. There may be some rain around on Saturday (at last), which brings the draw into the equation and makes a lay of England at 2.1 on Betfair the conservative option. The bolder option and arguably the better value one is to back India at a best price of 3.15, also on Betfair.
James Pacheco is a betting writer and tipster. You can find explanations on how to play all manner of football and cricket betting markets with tried and tested winning strategies for them, plus lots of other insightful betting content at www.bettingmaestro.com.