Captain Cook and co hope to put Sri Lanka shortfall behind them
With England long gone from the football World Cup and Andy Murray’s earlier than expected exit from Wimbledon, home hopes this summer now lie on the cricket side, as they take on India in an epic five-match Test series.
Peter Moores’ men come into this first battle at Nottinghamshire’s Trent Bridge on the back of losing a tough 1-0 contest in the longest form of the game with Sri Lanka. England are favourites both for victory here at 8/5, and to take the series at evens.
This is despite the fact that the hosts have not won a Test in their last eight, which is why former England coach Duncan Fletcher’s India side are a tempting 11/4 and 7/4 respectively. With the weather set to play its part, though, a draw at 11/8 is the most likely outcome at Trent Bridge.
The last time these teams played in England, the home nation won 4-0, with Stuart Broad getting a hat-trick on this very ground during that series. The 28-year-old seamer is 11/4 to be best bowler for his side in the first match in the first innings.
Broad said: “We lost the series against Sri Lanka but we played a lot of good cricket. We did some brilliant stuff with some debut hundreds and that sort of thing. The confidence is good coming into this series.
“Obviously, the last time India were here it was probably the best series we have played for years, but a lot of that team has changed.
“Some players can take some confidence from that but the majority of players have changed from that series so this is a completely fresh series. We’ve got to restart and go again.”
His captain, Alastair Cook, though, is under a lot of pressure, especially as the Essex opener has not scored a Test century in over a year. Cook, who has the record amount of hundreds for England, however, is a special Coral market price of 11/2 (maximum stake of £25), from 4/1, to be top batsman for the hosts in the first innings.
Century makers against Sri Lanka, Joe Root (double 100), Gary Ballance, Sam Robson (all 9/2) and Moeen Ali (11/2) are all expected to take part again, while Ben Stokes (13/2) is hoping for a recall after returning from injury.
For India, batsman Virat Kohli is the best chance to top score for them with Coral at 11/4, and the star spoke ahead of the first Test on the topic of England being in poor form.
“[England] know exactly what is going on in their heads, we can’t really comment on that,” he said. “But as far as our team is concerned, we have prepared really well. We have some discipline, some ideas in mind that we want to execute when we go onto the field.
“So we will have to wait and watch what their approach is like but as far as we are concerned, we want to stick to what we want to do in this series and not really focus on anything else.”
For England, meanwhile, potential superstar wicket-keeper batsman Jos Buttler has been given his first call up to the Test side, as cover for current first choice Matt Prior, who is suffering from a slight thigh injury.
The ECB stated, though: “Prior will continue to be assessed during the training session before a decision is made about his fitness.”