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India vs England 2020-21: Host starts as favourite, England aims to keep momentum going

India and England will fight it out, as the former defends the Anthony de Mello Trophy in a four-Test series, starting Friday. As India eyes the final spot in the ICC World Test Championship, the series will be crucial for both sides, with England looking to stay in contention.

India vs England 2020-21: Host starts as favourite, England aims to keep momentum going-ayh
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Kolkata, First Published Feb 3, 2021, 5:30 PM IST
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The year 2021 is all set to start with a bang for Team India, as it entertains England at home in a four-Test series to defend the Anthony de Mello Trophy, beginning Friday. It would be the 14th edition of the title between the two, with India being the most successful side, having won it on seven occasions.

The series would also be the first international cricketing series in India, in the prevailing pandemic era. While India begins as the favourite, especially coming off a winning performance in Australia and retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, England would be hungry as well, as it clean swept Sri Lanka 2-0 in India's neighbouring country. Furthermore, with the final spot in the ongoing ICC World Test Championship up for grab, both sides would leave no stones unturned, as here is the preview of what promises to be an enthralling series.

Team strengths and weaknesses
Although India has fared exceptionally well in all departments in the recent few series, its bowling has caught everyone's attention. Furthermore, with spin-friendly tracks in India, the spinners are ought to come into the focus again. Nonetheless, its pace bowling attack is equally good. On any given track, the pacers and seamers could tear apart any English batsmen, especially given the current form it's in, as was evident in Australia. As for its batting, it is somewhat shaky. However, since it is playing at home, it should not be a herculean task for the batsmen to fire.

Meanwhile, England too would struggle with its batting. Its top-order has failed to fire in the past few series, as the pressure and onus comes upon skipper Joe Root, who has been absolutely phenomenal in the longest format. However, its bowling is equally strong as India. Also, possessing more seamers than the host, along with expected green tracks, things could even up between the sides, while the English seamers might just go for the kill, considering India's tenuous batting.

Squad composition
As said earlier, India has an unreliable batting line-up. Therefore, to bolster it, the side has included 13 batsmen in the side. Although it is unsure how many batsmen would skipper Virat Kohli have in his side on the slow tracks, India might have no other choice but to have more of them, owing to the current form.

As for its bowling, it has nine bowlers, which include five pacers. Although India might likely field spinners mostly, considering that most of the spin options are all-rounders, it won't be wrong to have some pacers in the side. It would equally distribute the composition and allow Kohli to have enough bowling options in hand.

Similarly, England has moved in 10 batsmen, since it has an extremely unstable batting line-up, especially in the top-order. Rory Burns and Dominic Sibley's likes would have a task at hand to give England the desired start, before Root chips in.

Its bowling has nine, but a prolific one, which includes Jofra Archer, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, including all-rounder Ben Stokes, as all have decent pace and seam. Also, Moeen Ali would have to make an impact, being the most experienced spinner in the side.

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Players to watch out
Among the Indian batsmen, while Kohli would be the most watched-out man since he failed to score a single international century last year, young opener Shubman Gill is also in the reckoning, following a fair show in Australia. Also, Mayank Agarwal would look to get his rustiness aside, following a not-so-impressive display Down Under. Wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, who lit up in Australia, would also be in the radar.

As for its bowling, Jasprit Bumrah would be making his Test debut in India and would be desperate to make an impact. Furthermore, Mohammed Siraj would be another pacer in the computation. Simultaneously, Kuldeep Yadav could make a heavy impact being a chinaman, provided he gets an opportunity, as experts are heavily backing him.

Root would be a no-brainer from England since he finished as the side's highest run-scorer in Sri Lanka, besides scoring a double century. Additionally, its top-order (Sibley and Burns) has a task at hand, while Stokes would also have to chip in across departments.

For bowling, Anderson could be deadly with his seam, and so could Broad, while his teammates would expect Archer make an impact with his pace. However, Moeen could outshine everyone in the spin department.

Squads
India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), KL Rahul (wk), Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant (wk), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur.
England: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns (wk), Jos Buttler (wk), Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes (wk), Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes and Ollie Pope.

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