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India v England series preview: Resurgent England face huge test in India

England's Test fortunes have been rejuvenated by Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum but this month's series in India represents their biggest challenge.

Under captain Stokes and coach McCullum, England have won 13 of their 18 Test matches since June 2022 and they produced a stirring comeback to draw 2-2 in last summer's Ashes series against Australia.

England claimed a famous 2-1 series victory in India in 2012 but they have lost 4-0 and 3-1 on two subsequent Test visits and had a disappointing World Cup campaign on the subcontinent in October and November.

India v England series betting

India - 1/6
England - 15/2
Draw - 10/1

England squad for five-Test series v India

Ben Stokes (captain), Rehan Ahmed, James Anderson, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Shoaib Bashir, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes, Tom Hartley, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Mark Wood.

Hosts put visiting batsmen in a spin in 2021

After a frantic start to the 'Bazball' era, England have not played a Test match since the end of July, when Stuart Broad dismissed Alex Carey with the final delivery of his career to secure victory in the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval.

Since then, England suffered an early exit at the 50-over World Cup in India and Test captain Stokes underwent surgery on his troublesome knee.

The tourists will want their inspirational skipper to be fit and firing when an epic five-match series against India starts in Hyderabad on 25th January.

England needed some stunning batting from Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen, as well as brilliant spin bowling by Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, to edge a 2-1 series victory in India in 2012.

James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root, who made his debut in Nagpur during that series, know what it takes to win in India although they were also involved in the 4-0 defeat in 2016.

Root's double-century powered England to a surprise victory in Chennai in the first Test of the 2021 series before India's spinners ran riot, dismissing the tourists for 134, 164, 112, 81, 205 and 135 in the last three matches to seal a 3-1 triumph for the hosts.

Axar Patel took 27 wickets at an average of 10.59 against England while senior spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja shared 47 scalps in India's four-match home series against Australia last year.

And India also have some top-class fast bowlers at their disposal including Mohammed Shami, the leading wicket-taker at the World Cup, and Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah, who skittled South Africa for 55 in this week's Test victory in Cape Town.

Senior spinner Leach has crucial role to play

England missed the consistency and control of Jack Leach during the 2023 Ashes as the spinner was ruled out of the series due to a back injury on the eve of the first Test.

Leach will have a major role to play in India as his fellow specialist spinners are youngster Rehan Ahmed, who has played only one Test, and the uncapped Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir.

Somerset's Bashir took just 10 wickets in six matches in his debut County Championship campaign and it is vital that England's batters get big totals on the board to ease the pressure on their inexperienced bowlers.

Tours of India tend to feature a wide variety of batting conditions. Australia bowled out their hosts for 109 and 163 in March's third Test win in Indore on a spinning wicket while the fourth Test produced a high-scoring draw with first-innings totals of 480 and 571.

Root, who averages 50.1 after 10 Tests in India, will be the key batters for England, as usual. But Bairstow bagged three ducks in four innings on the last tour and openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett also struggled in India in 2021 and 2016 respectively. 

Batting depth makes India hard to beat on home turf

India have won 30, drawn seven and lost just three of their 40 home Test matches in the last decade so they will be confident of recording another wide-margin win over England.

The ultra-aggressive approach of Stokes and McCullum has brought England great success but they may have to box clever in India, especially if the ball is spinning dramatically.

Legendary Indian batter Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma both average more than 60 in home Tests, while spinners Ashwin and Jadeja have scored five centuries between them and Axar Patel averages 42 after 10 appearances.

That batting depth gives India another advantage over England, whose bowlers – apart from teenager Rehan – are unlikely to make major contributions with the bat against a top-class home attack.

This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.

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