Ind vs Eng 2nd Test | Can Rohit and his men ground the high-flying Bazball?

If they do, it will be remarkable, not just because they are facing an exceptional team riding a wave of confidence,but also because they are without three of their best players — Kohli, Rahul and Jadeja; Kuldeep likely to play

Updated - February 02, 2024 05:41 pm IST

Published - February 02, 2024 11:41 am IST

In a toss up between Patidar and Sarfaraz, the former seems to have the edge.

In a toss up between Patidar and Sarfaraz, the former seems to have the edge. | Photo Credit: K.R. DEEPAK

VisakhapatnamAs the Indian cricketers drove to the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy Stadium for their training session, the scenery may have made them feel a sense of deja vu — the mountain on one side, the sea on the other. Barely a month ago, they were in another city with a similar backdrop to play a Test match. Cape Town is a bit like this beautiful city of Andhra, though its South African counterpart is admittedly more stunning with its imposing Table Mountain, pristine beaches and vast landscapes.

Both the grounds are guarded by mountains, in fact. The similarity doesn’t end with geography.

The Indian team had arrived in Cape Town trailing 0-1 against South Africa. The scoreline is identical against England, but there is of course a big difference: this is a full five-Test series.

The Indians had drawn the short series in South Africa 1-1, winning the Cape Town Test inside two days on the fast, bouncy track at Newlands. They will be desperate to score a win in the second Test against the Bazballing England, which begins on Friday.

If they do, it will be a remarkable victory, not just because they are facing an exceptional team high on confidence, but also because they are without three of their best players. The absence of Virat Kohli, K.L. Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja makes the Indian batting less formidable. Jadeja’s left-arm spin, which has given India 280 wickets from 69 Tests, could be missed too.

Making up for Jadeja’s twin skills could be the biggest challenge for the team management. Kuldeep Yadav seems the most likely choice to replace bowler Jadeja, and the left-arm wrist-spinner could pose a question or two to England’s aggressive batters, but he doesn’t pretend to be an all-rounder.

So if India wants to retain the depth in batting, the off-spinning all-rounder Washington Sundar could be an option, though that may mean India could be playing just one seamer (Jasprit Bumrah). Like what England did at Hyderabad, where it won after conceding a lead of 190.

There are two contenders for the batter’s slot left behind by the injured Rahul — Rajat Patidar and Sarfaraz Khan; the former appears the front-runner.

India’s woes are not just limited to selection. More runs are needed from Shubman Gill, who is going through a rough patch, and Shreyas Iyer. The entire batting line-up, in fact, needs to put up a much more spirited show than it did in the second innings at Hyderabad; it failed badly while chasing a target of 231. England has no such worries. The sweep and reverse-sweep worked superbly — especially for the Player-of-the-Match Ollie Pope — in the first Test. As did its bowling, which, however, sports a different look.

The ageless Jimmy Anderson is coming in for Mark Wood, while 20-year-old off-spinner Shoaib Bashir will debut, in place of the injured Jack Leach. It was a debutant, left-arm spinner Tom Hartley, that caused India most trouble in Hyderabad.

India should be hoping to bounce back, a la Newlands.

The teams:

India (from): Rohit Sharma (Capt.), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Rajat Patidar, Shreyas Iyer, K.S. Bharat, R. Ashwin, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Sarfaraz Khan, Mukesh Kumar, Saurabh Kumar and Dhruv Jurel. England (playing XI): Ben Stokes (Capt.), Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Foakes, Rehan Ahmed, Tom Hartley, Shoaib Bashir and James Anderson.

Umpires: Chris Gaffaney and Marais Erasmus; TV umpire: Paul Reiffel; Reserve umpire: Rohan Pandit; Match referee: Richie Richardson.

Match starts at 9.30 a.m.

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