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India v England predictions: Ravi Ashwin, Rohit Sharma tipped to shine

Joe Root’s England face a daunting tour of India in a four-match Test series (Pictures: Getty)

England will attempt to pull off a major upset and end India’s long unbeaten home run when the two teams meet in a four-match Test series starting on Friday.

Since losing to Sir Alastair Cook’s England almost a decade ago, India have won 28 of their 34 home Test matches, winning 12 successive series and defeating England 4-0 in 2017.

Joe Root’s side at least begin this daunting task having won four consecutive Test series, most recently sealing a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Sri Lanka.

India, though, also come into this series on the back of a win, having overcome an injury crisis to beat Australia 2-1 and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Top run-scorers

England: Joe Root

England’s red-ball captain batted brilliantly in Sri Lanka, scoring 228 in the first Test and 186 in the second to re-establish himself as one of the best players in the world.

To suggest he ever slipped down the pecking order may be slightly unfair – Root has been world-class for almost all his international career – but he didn’t score a Test century throughout 2020 and has admitted that period left him scratching his head.

Talk of his conversion rate can be put to one side for now, though, after he inspired England’s impressive victory in Sri Lanka with two innings that Ben Foakes rates as the best he has ever seen.

Root looked in sensational form during England’s win in Sri Lanka (Picture: Getty)

India’s superb and varied attack will pose more problems for Root but a player who is already set to go down as one of England’s greatest-ever players – and possibly their most prolific run-scorer – will likely be up to the task.

The return of Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope will boost England’s middle-order, but there are still questions marks over top-order batsmen Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Rory Burns, while the tourists will miss Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler when they are rested.

India: Rohit Sharma

After missing the first half of India’s trip to Australia through injury, Rohit Sharma came into the side for the final two Tests and impressed without contributing a match-defining innings.

Given the ease at which he moved to 52 in Sydney and 44 in Brisbane, it was a surprise to see him depart but England may not be so fortunate.

All six of Sharma’s Test centuries have come at home, where he averages 88 in Test cricket. Brilliant against pace and spin, it’s difficult to imagine Sharma failing too many times this series.

Rohit Sharma impressed in Australia without producing a match-defining innings (Picture: Getty)

Worryingly for the tourists, that sentiment applies to a number of Indian batsmen. Shubman Gill, for example, showed enough in Australia to suggest he has a long international career ahead of him.

Middle-orders do not come much stronger than Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, while Rishabh Pant excelled after being recalled to the team against Australia. All in all, England could be spending some time in the field over the next six weeks.

Leading wicket-takers

England: Jack Leach

James Anderson and Stuart Broad played one Test each in Sri Lanka and a similar policy could be implemented in India, while the returning Jofra Archer is also likely to miss two of the matches.

Spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess improved as the Sri Lanka series went on and will need to up their games once again to produce results in India.

England rate Bess highly, value his batting and fielding and believe he may have a higher ceiling than his former Somerset team-mate Leach. But few would argue that Bess is a better spinner than Leach at this moment in time.

Jack Leach will hope to cement his place in England’s Test team (Picture: Getty)

Leach has endured a difficult couple of years since his heroics at Headingley alongside Stokes – he went over a year without playing for England and got so ill during a tour to New Zealand that he feared for his life – so it would be pleasing to see him impress against India.

India: Ravichandran Ashwin

The 34-year-old looked in complete control of his game in the first three Tests against Australia, before missing the series decider through injury.

Back fit, Ashwin will expect to add considerably to his 377 Test scalps against England in conditions he knows like the back of his hand.

India’s first-choice spinner has taken 254 wickets and 21 five-wicket hauls at an average of less than 23 at home. During this series, he could even become the fourth Indian to reach 400 Tests wickets as he continues to hunt down Harbhajan Singh, Kapil Dev and Anil Kumble.

Ravi Ashwin is closing in on 400 Test wickets (Picture: Getty)

The likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj and Washington Sundar could also be set to enjoy productive series against a talented but fairly inexperienced England batting line-up.

Series result

India 3-1 England

Given India’s dominance at home and their incredible recent victory in Australia, it’s almost impossible to look past the hosts, despite England continuing to improve under Chris Silverwood.

India are blessed with a star-studded line-up and proved in Australia that they can cope with any number of mitigating circumstances to compete with the best.

Test cricket could well be set for an era of Indian dominance, although it will still be difficult to whitewash an England team who have won four successive Test series and boast a number of world-class players and a few all-time greats.

The third Test – a day-night match in Ahmedabad – may provide England with their best chance of nicking a Test, but it’s hard to imagine the tourists enjoying many spells on top in what is surely the toughest assignment in world cricket.

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