India have now lost six Test matches at home since the start of 2012. It is the lowest number of Tests a side has lost in this period (ignoring Pakistan and Ireland who have only played a handful of Tests at home). However, the alarming aspect of the defeat in Hyderabad was the manner of the defeat.
England overcame a deficit of 190 to topple India - a vast improvement over the previous biggest deficit of 65 runs for India to lose a home Test.
The defeat opened a can of worms - a lack of Plan B for the bowlers in home conditions and the inability of modern-day Indian batters to tackle spin. Having not won their last three Tests at home, the hosts are now forced to look at themselves in the mirror regarding their template.
On the contrary, England’s “greatest Test win” under Ben Stokes has further justified their attacking Bazball template. They are yet to lose a series under Stokes and Brendon McCullum.
Thus, one of the most unexpected Test results in recent memory has set up a clash between two different ideologies - proactive cricket (England) vs trust in tried and tested methods (India). Can England emulate 2012? Visakhapatnam will go a long way in deciding that.
Things to watch out for
The pitch and everything related to India’s batting
The nature of the pitch will be a talking point throughout the Test. By earlier evidence, an early defeat for India in a home series has resulted in more and more turn in the subsequent games. However, being exposed on the same front may lead to a change in strategy.
Each of India’s six defeats since 2012 has a pattern - a left-arm orthodox spinner picking wickets, at least four in one innings of every defeat.
Two of India’s top three, Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, average 24.6 and 20.6 respectively against left-arm spin since 2021. Both were out to left-arm spin twice in Hyderabad. Shreyas Iyer, known to be exceptional against spin, averages only 35.2 against spinners at home in his brief career.
The withdrawal of Virat Kohli, and injuries to KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja means Rohit, Gill and Iyer are India’s senior-most batters. Other slots will go to Yashasvi Jaiswal, Washington Sundar (if included), one of Rajat Patidar or Sarfaraz Khan (on debut), KS Bharat and Axar Patel - 28 Tests in total.
India’s squad for the second Test has 10,702 runs between them, which is lower than Joe Root’s tally alone (11,147). Therefore, India’s batting has never been as vulnerable while trying to overcome a series trail.
Round 2 for England’s inexperienced bowling attack
Excluding Root (a part-time spinner) and Stokes (who didn’t bowl), England’s bowling attack had an experience of only 67 Tests in the first clash. They took time to settle but once they did, the Indian batters were at sea in the match-up battle.
Their experience stock for the second Test goes up to 186 Tests for the second round of the series. However, that is on the back of one man - James Anderson coming in for Mark Wood. With Jack Leach also going out due to a knee injury and replaced by another debutant - Shoaib Bashir - England's spin reserve has played only three Tests combined.
Bashir has only six First-Class games under his kitty for 10 wickets, but like Tom Hartley (40 FC wickets in 20 matches before his Test debut in Hyderabad), his tall height can make him a tricky spinner to tackle.
The off-spinner was impressive on his outing for England Lions against Afghanistan A, which has fast-tracked him to Test cricket. Not a big turner of the ball, Bashir can generate drift on the ball and, alongside Hartley, will be another candidate to challenge the outside edge of the Indian batters.
Hence, it will be interesting to see which factor takes centerstage in round two of the series - the novelty factor of the young English spinners or their inexperience.
Ground Details and Conditions
Vizag’s Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium has hosted only two Tests with a similar pattern. Both times (vs England in 2016 and vs South Africa in 2019), India batted first and mounted big scores to register comfortable wins.
65.7% of the wickets in these two Tests went to the spinners. The bowling average for spinners has gone down as the game has progressed. Ravichandran Ashwin has been the most successful bowler here, pouching 16 wickets at 19.3 runs apiece.
Expect the team that wins the toss to bat first and mount a big score.
> If Yashasvi Jaiswal gets out early, India may promote a left-hander at number five to tackle the threat of left-arm spin - Axar Patel or Washington Sundar. However, Axar must be careful of off-spinners bowling from around the wicket. The angle has accounted for 25% of his Test dismissals.
> James Anderson has dismissed Shubman Gill four times in Test cricket for only 31 runs. All four wickets are engineered by moving balls from a good length.
> Axar Patel vs Jonny Bairstow in Tests: 60 balls, 23 runs, three wickets
The unavailability of established players has opened India to a number of combinations. One of Sarfaraz and Patidar will come in for KL Rahul. Similarly, there are two options for Jadeja - Washington Sundar and Kuldeep Yadav.
Washington will provide a defensive spin option, while Kuldeep will be an aggressive bowling option, albeit without much batting expertise. India can also play both and go with four spinners if they bench Mohammed Siraj, who bowled only 11 overs in the first Test.
Rohit Sharma ( c ), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Sarfaraz Khan/Rajat Patidar, Axar Patel, KS Bharat (wk), Washington Sundar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav/Mohammed Siraj
The Three Lions have announced their XI for the second Test. Shoaib Bashir, the 20-year-old off-spinner, will make his debut replacing the injured Jack Leach. In the second change, James Anderson comes in for Mark Wood.
Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes ( c ), Ben Foakes (wk), Rehan Ahmed, Tom Hartley, James Anderson, Shoaib Bashir
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Sarfaraz Khan's game against spin makes him a must in home Tests
Jadeja's another rescue act, Root not taking wickets, and more
Have we seen the last of Iyer in whites for a while?
England win Day 1 despite Jaiswal's marathon effort
Could Sarfaraz Khan finally make his Test debut?
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Number 5 and spin attack trickiest decisions to make for India