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England's Test tour of India: Uncapped bowlers hoping to make an impact

Winning a Test series in India is arguably the toughest assignment in world cricket and England's five-match series starts in Hyderabad on 25th January.

Their squad includes Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and James Anderson, three players who featured in the 2-1 series win in India in 2012, as well as several players at the other end of their international careers.

Leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed, whose only Test cap came as an 18-year-old against Pakistan in December 2022, should get another opportunity while fast bowler Gus Atkinson and spinners Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir are hoping to make their debuts.

Five Test series should offer opportunity for pacy Atkinson

Stuart Broad's retirement and injury problems for Jofra Archer and Olly Stone have provided an opportunity for Surrey fast bowler Gus Atkinson at Test level.

Atkinson is in the squad for the India series alongside 41-year-old Anderson, who was player of the match when England wrapped up their famous 2012 victory with a draw in Nagpur.

Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson are the only other specialist quicks in the squad so Atkinson is likely to make his Test debut at some point during the five-match series, especially as captain Ben Stokes underwent knee surgery at the end of November; he may not be fit to bowl.

England's selectors like what they have seen from the 25-year-old Atkinson, both in red-ball and white-ball cricket at domestic level.

He has played only 14 first-class matches for Surrey but bowled some hostile spells in the County Championship last season, claiming career-best figures of 6-68 against Essex in May 2023.

Sir Alastair Cook, man of the series in England's 2012 triumph in India, was one of Atkinson's victims in Chelmsford and the fast bowler earned his first T20 international cap against New Zealand at Old Trafford in September.

He enjoyed a dream debut, taking 4-20 in 2.5 overs, and was a surprise inclusion in England's squad for the 50-over World Cup in India.

Atkinson played only three games during a disappointing campaign for the 2019 world champions but he picked up four wickets, including Pakistan captain Babar Azam.

Bowling fast on spin-friendly pitches in India is a tough gig but England will hope that some short, sharp spells from the pacy Atkinson and Wood can trouble the home batsmen.

Rookie Bashir aiming to hit the heights

If Atkinson's World Cup call-up came as a surprise, it was nothing compared with the shock of Shoaib Bashir's selection for England's Test tour of India.

The off-spinner, released by Surrey at the age of 17, played his first season of Championship cricket for Somerset in 2023, taking just 10 wickets in six appearances.

However, England captain Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum are known for their innovative approach to selection and the team's analysts had been on the lookout for tall spin bowlers who could thrive in India.

Bashir, at 6ft 4in, fits the bill and he could line up alongside his experienced Somerset teammate Jack Leach, who missed the 2023 Ashes series due to a back injury.

Rob Key, the managing director for the England men's team, suggested that Bashir was picked due to his high release point and the fast pace at which he bowls.

Axar Patel, another tall spinner, routed England on their last tour of India in 2021, taking 27 wickets in three games at an average of 10.59.

In contrast, Bashir's 10 Championship wickets cost 67 runs apiece but Key explained when the squad was announced in December: "This is the start of his journey, where we will hopefully see a world-class spinner in the future."    

Lancashire left-armer could provide useful control

Like Bashir, Lancashire's Tom Hartley is unusually tall for a spinner, at 6ft 4in, although he is a more experienced campaigner than the Somerset youngster.

The left-armer also has a modest first-class record, with 40 wickets in 20 matches, with his career-best match figures of 8-80 coming in a 2022 victory over county champions Surrey.

Hartley's victims in that game included South Africa legend Hashim Amla and England internationals Rory Burns, Tom Curran and Jamie Overton, while he has also caused problems for some top-class players in the T20 Blast and The Hundred.

He dismissed England's Harry Brook and Tom Banton in Manchester Originals' clash with Northern Superchargers in The Hundred last summer and got rid of Will Jacks, another England T20 star, with his first ball in the final against Oval Invincibles at Lord's.

Hartley's international experience is limited to one ODI against Ireland in September 2023, when he bowled 10 tidy but wicketless overs.

He has shown impressive control in white-ball cricket and will need to replicate that against an India batting line-up who love to attack visiting spinners.

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