England – -109.89 at 5Dimes
Draw – +400
India – +175
IF the rest of the series plays out like the first Test did, we are in for a real treat.
India had five wickets in hand, 82 runs to get and Virat Kohli at the crease when the umpires called stumps on day three at Edgbaston.
But day four was all about Ben Stokes, who removed Kohli, Mohammed Shami and Hardik Pandya as England snatched a 31-run victory.
That might be the extent of the star all-rounder’s involvement in this series.
While the rest of the squad heads to London for the second Test – which starts Thursday, August 9 – Stokes is off to Bristol to appear in court on charges of affray.
He is replaced by fit-again Chris Woakes, while Ollie Pope comes in for axed left-hand bat Dawid Malan.
“Ollie Pope has made an exceptional start to his first class career,” said Ed Smith, England’s chief selector.
“He has reached a 1000 first class runs in just 15 matches and is the first division’s stand-out batsman this season with 684 runs at 85.
“The selection panel believe that Ollie’s performances and character suggest he is well suited to international cricket.
“Dawid Malan drops out of the squad for Lord’s.
“Dawid has not found his best rhythm this season, and it may be that his game is better suited to overseas conditions.
“Ben Stokes is unavailable, but Chris Woakes, with some extra matches and practices under his belt, can now return to the England squad after injury.”
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Although it ended in defeat, the first Test was far from a disaster for India.
Ravichandran Ashwin starred as the lone spinner, taking seven wickets for the match, while Ishant Sharma destroyed England’s middle order with 5/51 in the second innings.
However, concerns over the touring team’s batting depth were well and truly borne out as Kohli alone scored some 45.9 per cent of India’s 436 runs.
Cheteshwar Pujara was a controversial omission for Birmingham, and already there are calls to reinstate to prolific number three.
West Indies great Michael Holding believes all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who bowled only 10 overs in the first Test, should be the man to make way.
“I do not understand how they are so reluctant to play Pujara. He’s too good a player,” Holding said.
“If Kohli had no form, would they leave him out? I’m not saying Pujara is as good as Kohli, because Kohli is way above everyone else.
“But when you have a Rahul Dravid, a VVS Laxman or a Sourav Ganguly who is not in excellent form, do you leave them out? No.
“Pandya, it seems as if he’s the golden boy in this team. Everyone thinks he’s going to be the next Kapil Dev. He hasn’t shown that yet.
“Why not pick a batsman? Pandya got a few runs in the second innings but is he a better batsman than Pujara? I don’t think so, and you don’t need him as a bowler in my eyes.”
Top batsman betting tips
Joe Root (+250 at 5Dimes) – It is now only a few days shy of a whole year since England’s star skipper racked up a century in Test cricket. Nevertheless, his first-innings 80 in Birmingham showed that he is still the best bat in the team.
Virat Kohli (+175 at 5Dimes) – If there were any doubts about Kohli’s ability to deliver the goods on British soil, they were shattered at Edgbaston as he reeled off 149 and 51 with no support to speak of. Why back anybody else at Lord’s?
Best bets for top bowler
Adil Rashid (+400 at 5Dimes) – The returning leggy bowled a measly 14 overs in the first Test, yet that was enough to snare three wickets. Expect him to shoulder a far greater workload on a Lord’s deck that promises little help for the seamers.
Ravi Ashwin (+250 at 5Dimes) – This guy has not always managed to replicate his home form on away trips, but Ashwin was brilliant in Birmingham. His twin dismissals of Alastair Cook should see him thrust into the action early in the innings.
England or India – who wins?
Which is more likely: that anybody can fill the gaping void left by Ben Stokes’ absence, or that someone besides Virat Kohli will make a few runs for India? The visitors were so close in the opener and should fancy their chances of squaring the series in London.
Our pick: India to win (+175 at 5Dimes)
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