The series between India and England which was originally scheduled for June 2020 is finally rolling a year later. In sharp contrast, while India got many controversies rather than matches, England had two T20I series comprised of 8 matches and 3 ODIs. India who was the finalist of the T20 World Cup in 2020 had their only series against South Africa and lost both the series in an unexpected turn of events. England, who had eliminated from the extravaganza after their semifinal was washed out, won 8 consecutive T20Is after that while won their ODI series 2-1 to New Zealand.

As both sides will lock horns in all the formats, their campaign will kick off with a one-off Test match in Bristol. None of the sides has played Test here and will look to make a fresh start. In their last three test matches, India has all of them while England lost one and drew two. Against India, in their last three test matches, England has failed to win any while India won two. 7 years earlier when both the side have faced each other in Wormsley, India won the match by 6 wickets.

India playing test after 8 years, fielded 8 debutants and they performed against anyone expectations. While Niranjana Nagarajan picked up 4 wickets in the first inning to bundle England on 92, Veteran seamer Jhulan Goswami took 4 wickets in the 2nd innings. 17 years old Smriti Mandhana’s half-century put the Indian chase on track while Indian skipper, Mithali Raj, and Shikha Pandey joined hands to complete the work. Jenny Gunn’s allrounder effort was not enough to save them from humiliation. This time to 10 of India’s 18-member touring party is yet to play a Test, while 11 players in the England squad have Test-match experience.

But as they face England after 7 years both the side will see the new faces, coming through the ranks. India will look forward to their new Test opening partner in form of Smriti Mandhana and Punam Raut who never batted together in the test. They will depend a lot on Smriti’s bat at the top of the order and she too will try to replicate the same old story she did as a teenager. After her tour in 2014 and World Cup in 2017, this will be her 3rd tour to England.

Smriti loves batting against England (highest average in ODI) and her innings in 7 years ago at a lush green turf gives the Indian side a ray of hope. On the other hand, Punam Raut who has a century against South Africa in the test will try to justify her position in absence of MD Thirush Kamini, who has opened the batting for India in their last two tests and holds the record of highest induvial run as an opener in an innings as well.

Mithali Raj, the Indian captain, and the pillar of the Indian batting has an impressive record against England in Test. She has scored her only double century in 2002 and broke the then-record of highest individual run in an innings of Test against England. Though her 214 didn’t help her side to win the test match but earned her a place among the greats of the game. Even in the last encounter, she came into bat at a situation where India had lost Smriti Mandhana and England seamers- Kate Cross and Jenny Gunn was looking ferocious. She fought in the middle and added 40 for the 3rd wicket to settle the chase.

Then as India lost Punam Raut and Harmanpreet Kaur at the dying hours, she again joined hands with Shikha Pandey to survive the day and completed the formalities on the next day. That unbeaten partnership of 68 was immensely crucial in the context of the game. Her 606 runs in 10 innings against England and experience is a silver-linning in the inexperienced Indian batting lineup.

Harmanpreet Kaur will be another key in the middle order for India. Though she has not done anything remarkable with the bat in test yet, her off-spin took 9 wickets against South Africa at Mysore in 2014. Besides she is that kind of a player on whom you want to trust as she needs some time in the middle to finally destroy any bowling attack on her day.

While experts have been asking to allow Shafali Verma to open the longer formats of the games for long, it would be interesting to see what will be the response from the Indian management and newly appointed coach Ramesh Powar. Though Priya Punia may find it difficult to make a break into the top order, Deepti Sharma and Jemimah Rodrigues look like strong contenders for numbers 5 and 6. Both of them have experiences in England, even though in the shorter format of the games but both of them are likely to play the match. Though the form of Jemimah can be the area of concern for the management, Deepti’s all-round abilities confirm her a berth in the side.

Meanwhile, Indrani Roy has been the talk of the town in the Indian domestics circuit for her performance in the 50-over competition with the bat. However, India would love to go with a dependent hand behind the wicket in form of Taniya Bhatia. Though Bhatia failed to score runs with the bats, her reflexes and swift footwork have been praised by the cricketing fraternity.

Jhulan Goswami will lead the Indian pace bowling department, who like Mithali Raj has been wrecker-in-chief for the destruction of the England batting order. Goswami had picked 5 wickets in the match last time including 4 wickets in the 2nd innings. She has the best figure as an Indian seamer in a match in England, irrespective of gender when she picked up 10/78 in 2006. She is handy with the bat as well. Along with Jhulan and Shikha Pandey, India has two more seamers in the line-up. Now depending on the condition they can opt for three seamers and one specialist spinner or they can go for two-seamer and two specialist spinners.

As India has two off-spinners in form of Harmanpreet Kaur and Deepti Sharma it is more likely that Indian would go with 3 pacers and 1 spinner. While India needs to choose between Pooja Vastrakar and Arundhati Reddy for seamers, it would be more intriguing to see whom they choose as the spinner. Ekta Bisht was part of the 2014 tour and she is the more likely to be picked if India goes with one spinner, looking at the number of right-hand batters in the English side, the other two Poonam Yadav and Radha Yadav, goo din limited over cricket will force the management to think.

Indian Squad: Mithali Raj (Captain), Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Punam Raut, Priya Punia, Deepti Sharma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Sneh Rana, Taniya Bhatia (wicket-keeper), Indrani Roy (wicket-keeper), Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar, Arundhati Reddy, Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht, Radha Yadav

Probable XI: Mithali Raj (Captain), Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Punam Raut, Deepti Sharma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Taniya Bhatia (wicket-keeper), Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar, Ekta Bisht

Though in the last two Ashes England managed to hold on to a draw, Australia maintained its dominance most of the time. Ellyse Perry was all over England in those two matches. She hit back-to-back centuries against them, including an unbeaten 213 in 2017. Heather Knight in both the occasion has failed to restrict her.

While Amy Jones did well in her only test match innings, Tammy Beaumont’s nightmare continued against Perry in 2019. England will hope to see a good start from these two. Amy Jones two centuries in 3 innings for Central Sparks in RHF Trophy will be a huge boost for the side. While Lauren Winfield Hill is in good touch in RHF Trophy, it would be interesting to see if she found a place in the final XI or not and even if she founds, where she comes out to bat. She could also play the fourth Test of her career and her first since the 2017 Ashes in Australia.

England’s middle-order will be dependent on both Heather Knight and Natalie Sciver. Knight has scored runs 223 runs in Racheal Hey-hoe Flint Trophy while Natalie will like to continue her touch from where she left the innings against Australia. 

There is a couple of contenders to fill the batting lineup for England. Both Fran Wilson and Georgia Elwiss have been given the chance in the lower middle order but none of them was impressive. In this case, two new names come in a frame. One is Maddy Villiers and another one is Sophia Dunkley. Dunkley’s call-up caps a successful week for her after she was awarded a central contract for 2021-22.

Dunkley broke back into the England set-up during the five-match T20I series against West Indies last summer after an absence of 18 months and has started the Rachael Hey-hoe Flint Trophy strongly with scores of 104 not out, 0, and 92. Both her and Maddy Villers can also play the role of a handy all-rounder, which will short the tail of batting and also provides an option in bowling.

England pace batteries comprised Anya Shrubsole, Katherin Brunt, and Kate Cross have seen the young faces like Freya Davis, Emily Arlott, and Natasha Farrant. Arlott has earned a maiden call-up to the England Women’s squad ahead of their Test against India after taking a hat-trick in domestic cricket last weekend. Brunt has picked up 9 wickets for Northern Diamonds while Arlott has 8 scalps in 3 outings.

Farrant brings a variety in the pace attack, being a left-arm seamer who too has picked 9 wickets. While Natalie Sciver in the side, England seam bowling attack looks solid with ample options to go with.  Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn have been England’s go-to spinner in the limited-over formats. Though Ecclestone has played two test matches, she would like to put her mark in the test matches as well. England released Freya Davis and Sarah Glenn for the RHF Trophy, which in turns suggests that they are more likely to be available in the limited over formats.

England Squad: Heather Knight (Captain), Natalie Sciver (vice-captain), Amy Jones (wicket-keeper), Lauren Winfield-Hill, Sophia Dunkley, Georgia Elwiss, Tammy Beaumont, Fran Wilson, Sarah Glenn, Sophie Ecclestone, Emily Arlott, Natasha Farrant, Freya Davis, Katherin Brunt, Anya Shrubsole, Maddy Villiers, Kate Cross

Probable XI: Heather Knight (Captain), Natalie Sciver (vice-captain), Amy Jones (wicket-keeper), Lauren Winfield-Hill, Sophia Dunkley, Tammy Beaumont, Georgia Elwiss, Sophie Ecclestone, Natasha Farrant, Katherin Brunt, Anya Shrubsole

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