1st Test Location: Rajiv Gandhi ICG, Hyderabad
1st Test Time: Thursday, 25 January to Monday, 29 January
England and India will begin a five-Test marathon on Thursday when the first ball is bowled at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Ground in Hyderabad. This is an eight-week tour – a tour so long that England will actually fly back home between Tests two and three – with the tourists playing in five cities as they look for what would be an improbable and historic Test series win.
India has been untouchable at home in cricket’s longest format for over a decade. Their last Test series defeat was back in 2012 when an Alistair Coook-led England side beat them 2-1. India has won every home series since, not even settling for a draw against any opponent.
Their current run of 36 wins from their last 46 Tests on their home pitches is outstanding. They are the clear favorites to beat England here, even with the tourists bringing a fully loaded team to the subcontinent.
Put in even more historical context, Ben Stokes has a sizeable job here. Including Cook, only four England captains have ever won a Test series in India, one of which was during the between World War years. Stokes – living and dying by the Bazball tactics – has 13 wins from 18 Tests as a full-time captain, and the task in front of them will overawe neither him nor England.
This is the biggest test for Bazall yet – and potentially ever – so seeing how this series plays out will be fascinating.
India has been dealt a significant blow for the first two Tests of this series after it was announced that former captain Virat Kohli would be missing for personal reasons. This is a massive blow as Kholi has experience (113 Tests) and production (6,648 runs) that India will miss. The fourth-highest Test run scorer in history hopes to return for the 3rd Test.
India is not the only team that has seen a major star ruled out for personal reasons, though in England’s case, those reasons have cost a player the entire series. Yorkshire batsman Harry Brook has returned to the UK and is expected to miss the entire series. He has been replaced by Dan Lawrence of Surrey in the squad, and while Brook could potentially return later in the series, he will miss the 1st Test at a minimum.
Brook will be a serious miss as he has scored four centuries in 12 Tests so far in his short England career. In more positive news, captain Stokes is fit and ready to play after having surgery on a troublesome knee problem in November. He is expected to be in the XI for the Hyderabad Test.
Uncapped spinner Shoaib Bashir also misses out because of visa issues as he is of Pakistani descent.
I love Ben Duckett at 11/2 to be England’s best batsman in the 1st Test. Ducket proved in Pakistan he knows how to play against spinners, so if you want a flutter on a prop market, then this is the one I would lean into.