England-India test action finally returns to Headingley after 19 long years, India last played at Headingley in 2002 which turned out to be a triple delight for fans as Sachin, Sourav and Dravid scored demolishing centuries. The current Indian team haven’t played a test match at Headingley which is a very ideal English wicket. England last played a test at Headingley during the 2019 Ashes which is remembered for Ben Stokes stunning finish and Jack Leach’s stay.
A big gap before the start of 3rd test at Headingley and England announced changes in their squad, Dominic Sibley faced the axe as Dawid Malan received recall. Saqib Mahmood and Ollie Pope were also named in the squad.
This India’s tour of England has turned out to be one of the best for various reasons and one of then being the opening, with Rohit-Rahul at the top giving foundations to the middle order that’s been a very big positive, opening is always a key and India so far have done well to kept it out of concern. The middle order have batted important passages of play during the 2nd test which will give them confidence going forward into the series, cameos from the middle order will be India’s only concern, they’ll need to start converting cameos into knocks.
There are talks of Suryakumar Yadav making a test debut replacing Pujara but why change something that’s not broken, Pujara hasn’t had a good outing for quite sometime now but when he played his natural game in the second innings of the 2nd test that partnership with Rahane set the game for India and that was where India staged a comeback. That knock of 45 facing 206 balls would have given him confidence for the series, baseless at the moment to talk for Pujara’s replacement. Chances of Suryakumar Yadav are only if India play 4 bowlers which isn’t ideal with a long series ahead and yet he isn’t the first in pecking order with Hanuma Vihari having the upper hand, again that’s a very outside chance of playing 4 bowlers.
Bowling from India has been excellent and a big positive that’s winning them games. There’s always an option of Ashwin coming in for Jadeja, again not certain but there’s always a slight chance of him making it to the XI and Headingley is the best spinning track if compared to other English tracks, so India might opt for Ashwin being a better spinner on a surface where there is something in offer to make the most of it. India get a batter short with Jadeja’s omission but Ashwin too has batted well during the last few months and one change forces the second as India might opt for Shardul as he adds more batting depth that leads to Ishant’s omission. India will have these options on mind and the final XI will grab eyeballs.
For England the concerns are increasing with injuries and bad forms of players. Batters Zak Crawley and Dominic Sibley will be returning to respective counties to regain confidence after string of low scores. Recalled man, David Malan might bat at no.3, a couple of months back in a lone county innings that Malan played this season he hit a magnificent 199. Haseeb Hameed will take the opening slot in absence of Dominic Sibley. Ollie Pope has been recalled to the test squad and he’s put up several cameos batting in the middle order but an innings is yet due and will look to capitalise if he makes it to the XI through a slim chance.
England suffer a huge blow as Mark Wood’s ruled out of the third test but could turn out as a blessing in disguise as a slot opens up for Saqib Mahmood’s debut, he swings the ball well and at the top with James Anderson they can help England unsettle India early. Sam Curran continues to stay in the squad as Chris Woakes is yet to recover from the heel injury and Curran will wish to put up a better performance cementing his place in the English test XI as an all-rounder. Moeen Ali’s return in whites has been decent as a result England release bowlers Jack Leach and Dominic Bess from the squad to play county cricket.
England need to start scoring big, Jos Buttler with the tail need to finish strong and the openers have to start giving strong foundations. Joe Root and the bowling are the only positives for England. Headingley not the easiest of surfaces and as England sight a comeback they cannot ask for a better chance than India at Headingley.
Senior men and skipper Joe Root have failed to apply themselves on the field, the tactics have been poor and questionable. Joe Root has to lead a pack of wolves and not men to win games against India in test cricket, England have failed to capitalise during the key passage and moments of play. England will look to be more in the game for the remaining three test matches to keep the series alive for a thrilling finish.
Weather at Leeds is very promising for the 5 days of the test match, should be a complete 5 day game with no interruptions. Cloudy yet bright sunshine, that’s a very English condition. Should be another cracker of a match.