India v England Preview and Betting Tips: Bazball faces sport's ultimate test

Alex Brinton

24 January 2024

After a disappointing performance at the Cricket World Cup late last year, England return to the sport’s modern-day powerbase for the toughest test the game has to offer: a Test series against India in their own backyard.

It is hard to understate the dominance of the Indian Test team when playing at home. They have not lost a series on home soil since England beat them in 2012/13. Since then, they have lost only three Test matches in their own conditions. Their record reads: played 40, won 30, Drawn 7, Lost 3. Since 1988 they have lost only three series at home. This is the toughest assignment in team sport. 

Flying in the face of adversity and normal thinking is one of the main strengths of the current England Test team. Since Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes joined forces as coach and captain respectively, they have been breaking records. We are closing in on two years of Bazball, as England’s attacking brand of cricket is known, and it’s hard to argue with the results. They have played 19 Tests, winning 14, losing just four and drawing one. 

England’s preparation for this series has come under heavy scrutiny from former players in the media, they arrived in India only on Monday and have not played a single match in the build up. But this England team do things their own way: they have spent 11 days in Dubai training, preparing and golfing. While this may seem like an unconventional approach, England don’t want to conform to the norms of cricket, instead they do what they feel is best.

The main challenge for teams touring India, is not the extreme heat but the spinning pitches. India’s spinning quartet of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav are all deadly options. All four are unlikely to play in the same game but we could easily see three in a Test XI. My prediction would be Ashwin, Jadeja and Patel. The latter was incredible last time England visited India taking 27 wickets in three matches at an average of just 10.59. England’s spin options are a lot weaker. Between them India’s spinners have taken 849 Test wickets, England’s have just 131.  

It will be interesting to see how India’s spinners cope with England’s aggressive batting tactics. I can see it having some success but there will definitely be at least one occasion in the series where it all goes wrong for the visitors and they are skittled out for under 150.


India squad for first and second Tests:

Rohit Sharma (C), Ravichandran Ashwin, KS Bharat (WK), Jasprit Bumrah (VC), Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Ravindra Jadeja, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Dhruv Jurel (WK), Avesh Khan,  Mukesh Kumar, Axar Patel, KL Rahul (WK), Mohd. Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav

*Virat Kohli has withdrawn from the squad for the first two Tests.

England squad for Tour of India

Ben Stokes (C), Rehan Ahmed, James Anderson, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow (WK), Shoaib Bashir, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes (WK), Tom Hartley, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope (VC), Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Mark Wood.

*Dan Lawrence was called into the squad on Sunday after Harry Brook returned home for personal reasons.

Venues and Dates

The venues chosen for the Test matches have been the cause of slight controversy already. England will not visit some of the grounds and cities you would expect. They don’t play in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad or Bengaluru. So where do they play and when?

First Test: January 25-29, Hyderabad - Located right in the heart of India, the hosts have played five Test matches at this ground, winning four and drawing one. They have won twice by an innings and once by ten wickets, so they are certainly on confident ground.

Second Test: February 2-6, Visakhapatnam - For the second Test the teams travel east to a ground right on the coast. The city has only ever hosted two Tests. India beat England here in 2016 and South Africa in 2019.

Third Test: February 15-19, Rajkot - The third Test takes place in north east India, near Ahmedabad. England drew here in 2016 with Joe Root and Ben Stokes both scoring hundreds. The only other Test match played here saw India resoundingly beat West Indies by an innings and 272 runs.

Fourth Test: February 23-27, Ranchi - We go back to the west side of India for the fourth Test match. Ranchi has also only hosted two Test matches. A draw with Australia in 2017 on a very flat pitch was followed by a dominant India win over South Africa in 2019.

Fifth Test: March 7-11, Dharamshala - The final Test match of the series, takes place in the foothills of the Himalayas. Dharamshala is one of the most visually stunning grounds in the world. England can take heart from the fact that they beat Bangladesh here in the World Cup just a couple of months ago. There has only been one Test match played here which saw India beat Australia by eight wickets in 2017.

Where to watch

TNT Sports is the place to watch this series. This was only confirmed last week as the broadcaster signed a five-year deal which will see them broadcast this tour and England’s next two tours of India.

Each day's play is scheduled get underway at around 4am GMT.

Leading Run-Scorer

Virat Kohli’s withdrawal from the first two Tests means that I have had to take a bit of a deeper look at both teams for this tip. Without Kohli, India will turn to their skipper Rohit Sharma to provide the bulk of the runs. Sharma’s 24 Tests at home have seen him score 2002 runs at an average of 66.73 with eight hundreds. He also averages 49.80 against England, so the bowling attack won’t intimidate him at all. 

For the visitors, my selection is Joe Root. He was the leading scorer in 2021, with 368 runs at 46. For a foreign player his record in India is breathtaking: 952 runs at 50.10, including a highest score of 218. He struggled under the weight of captaincy in 2021, but this time without that worry he will be free to play his game.

Leading Wicket-Taker

For the hosts, I struggle to look past R Ashwin. The tall off-spinner is a master in his own conditions, taking 337 wickets in 55 matches. At 37, he only appears to be getting better with age. In nine Tests under Sharma’s captaincy he has taken 53 wickets at an average of 16.58, including career-best figures of 7/71. If he plays all five Tests the final one will be his 100th and it would be surprising if he didn’t take the ten wickets he needs to reach the mythical number of 500. He would be just the ninth bowler and just the fifth spinner in history to reach that landmark. Ashwin was the leading wicket-taker during England’s 2021 tour of India, taking 32 at 14.71. 

I struggle to see a word where Jack Leach is not England’s leading wicket-taker. He is England’s senior spinner and due to the lack of experience of England’s other spin options, he will play all five Tests. He has experience in these conditions taking 18 wickets in 2021 and under Stokes’s captaincy, he has been fantastic, taking 45 wickets in 13 matches.

Correct Score

We should start with the easy bit. India are going to win the series. In terms of the score, that gets a bit more tricky. I am going to back a scoreline of 4-1. England’s attacking batting style and Stokes’ innovative captaincy is likely to upset India’s rhythm. I think in one of the matches this will be enough for them to get a win. The disparity in quality in the bowling department is just too much for me to overlook and I think that will prove to be England’s downfall. 

Recommended Bets

Back Rohit Sharma for leading India run-scorer @ 2.20
Back Joe Root for leading England run-scorer @ 2.20
Back R Ashwin for leading India wicket-taker @ 2.76

Back Jack Leach for leading England wicket-taker @ 2.52
Back 4-1 for correct score @ 4.8

Alex Brinton

24 January 2024

We use cookies to manage user login sessions, enhance user experience, perform essential site operations and tailor advertising and other content to reflect your specific interests. By clicking "I Accept" you consent to the use of cookies and similar technologies for the purposes we outline in our Cookie.

Lay Betting Calculator









Odds Calculator