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India all set for English challenge as international cricket returns in country

The first Test between India and England will mark the resumption of international cricket in the cricket-loving nation after a gap of more than 11 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
India all set for English challenge as international cricket returns in country

The first Test between India and England will mark the resumption of international cricket in the cricket-loving nation after a gap of more than 11 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

India's ODI series against South Africa was called-off following the coronavirus outbreak in the country in March last year. The first ODI of the three-match series was washed out due to rain in Dharamshala.

India last played Sri Lanka in front of the home crowd in a T20I clash in Pune, January last year.

The first Test will be played behind closed doors while the second Test will have 50 per cent crowd in attendance, the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) secretary confirmed on Tuesday.

Both the Tests will be played at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. As things seem under control and new normal is in place, the focus has been given to cricket again. The hosts are pumped up to take any challenge after the historic series win against Australia.

The four-match Test series Down Under was not only about cricket, it was a mental, physical and temperamental test of the players which they passed successfully.

Virat Kohli-led side is on higher morale as compared to England, who are coming after a 2-0 series win against depleted Sri Lanka. Both the teams are fighting for a finals spot in the World Test Championship (WTC).

New Zealand on Tuesday had become the first team to qualify for the inaugural ICC WTC final as the Test series between Australia and South Africa was postponed. The Kiwis will now be joined by either India, England or Australia in the WTC finals.

To book their place in the WTC finals scheduled from June 18-22, India will have to win the series against England by 2-1, 2-0, 3-1, 3-0, or 4-0, margin. For England to qualify and join New Zealand, they will have to win the series against India by 3-1, 3-0, or 4-0 margin.While looking at the home squad, it seems like the side has all to overcome the English challenge. Rohit Sharma will continue to pair with his rookie partner Shubman Gill in the opening. Kohli, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara will power the middle-order while it will be a tough call to pick between The Gabba Test hero Rishabh Pant and Wriddhiman Saha for behind the sumps duty. India have always given preference to Saha in home conditions while Pant is considered as a foreign tour wicketkeeper by the management. But after the Australia tour, Pant has done it all to cement his place in the team irrespective of the conditions.

It will be interesting to see that whether India goes with four bowlers or five. Most likely the hosts will opt for two spinners -- Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav -- and two pacers --- Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma. If India pick all-rounder Hardik Pandya they will have an extra batsman but they have to drop one spinner in that case.

The final decision on the playing eleven will be taken before the match on Friday.

On the other hand, England struggled with the opening pair in the Sri Lanka tour and Zak Crawley's injury has added another worry for the side. Crawley injured his right wrist and as a result, the top-order batsman didn't train on Wednesday at the practice session.

In Crawley's absence, Rory Burns can join Dominic Sibley for the opening. Root, who will be playing his 100th Test on Friday, will bolster the middle-order while Jos Buttler, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence and Ben Stokes will further power the batting line-up.

Jofra Archer will lead the fast bowling for visitors while there could be a toss-up between James Anderson and Stuart Broad. If Moeen Ali gets a chance in the XI, either Dom Bess or Jack Leach will play as the other spinner.

India's squad for first two Tests: Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha, Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Ravi Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel.

England squad for first two Tests: Joe Root (captain), Jofra Archer, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Ollie Pope.

( With inputs from ANI )

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