In recent years, England have enjoyed a decent test record in India but their problems in Bangladesh suggest that it’s going to be an even tougher series against the superior spin of Ashwin and co. The tourists have struggled in key areas in their top order and the markets ahead of this first test, which starts in Rajkot on Wednesday, hold little surprises.
Virat Kohli’s men are way ahead in the result betting as short, odds on favorites at 1.53 with Bet365 and Betway. The hosts have to make some decisions regarding selection, with a straight choice between Nair and Pandya being the most vexing question, but the balance of this side just looks too strong.
With the bat, Shikhar Dhawan may have drifted off the radar but Cheteshwar Pujara is back in form and along with Kolhi, Saha, Pujara and the recalled Gautam Gambhir, that’s a formidable top order. But it’s the bowlers – Ashwin, Jadeja and Mishra – that are the threat and having seen England struggle in Bangladesh, they will surely pick three spinners.
England are out at 6.00 with Bet365 and Betway after that poor recent showing and there are plenty of problems in this batting line up. It is hoped by many that Gary Ballance doesn’t play in this game but having selected the squad so early, there are few alternatives.
The logical option is to hand opener Haseeb Hameed his debut and move Ben Duckett into Ballance’s position but having played so poorly against the Bangladesh spin attack, there is little hope in Rajkot. The draw is priced at 4.33 with Bet365 but I can’t see beyond an Indian victory.
Kohli found some form in the recent ODI series with New Zealand and the skipper goes off here as clear favorite to score most first innings runs for India at 3.50 with Bet365 and Betway. Pujara is next on the list at 4.75 with Bet365 while Murali Vijay offers some definite value at 5.00 with Betway.
One man who has been pretty consistent since the start of the Indian season is Ajinkya Rahane and after runs in both formats against the Kiwis, he is a serious tempter at a price of 6.00 with both Bet365 and Betway.
Kohli would be my man for India but England’s version of this market is far more confused. It starts with Joe Root as the clear favorite at odds of 3.75 with Bet365 while Alastair Cook follows at 4.33 with Duckett at 6.00 with Bet365 and Betway.
I wouldn’t touch Duckett if he opens but I would consider the Northants player if he features in a more familiar position at number 4 or 5. However, I’m backing Jonny Bairstow who has enjoyed a record breaking year with the bat and is top value at 8.00 with Bet365.
It’s rare to see any bowler as low as 2.30 to return best first innings figures for his side but you can get exactly that on Ashwin with Bet365. In fact, with some bookies, he has slipped below that 2.00 mark and is at an odds on figure.
Normally, 2.30 wouldn’t interest me in this particular market but when you look at Ashwin against the Kiwis and then consider England’s problems against spin, that is probably the best bet of the match.
As the series develops, England can compete and with players such as Root, Bairstow and Ben Stokes, they should see an inspirational performance that can clinch a test match. But, it’s India’s series for me – they are far stronger in the key departments – spin bowling and batting against the slow men so expect a victory for Kohli’s men and it should come well with the five days.