Cricket expert Richard Mann looks ahead to England's Test series with India which gets underway at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
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After what seems an age, the eagerly anticipated Test series between England and India finally gets underway in Birmingham next week and for both sides, the stakes really couldn't be higher.
For Joe Root and his team, following a disastrous winter Down Under and a drawn series with Pakistan earlier this summer, it is high time they started to show the same level of progress that has been seen with the white-ball.
Anything other than a series-levelling victory over Pakistan at Headingley back in June might have meant the end for coach Trevor Bayliss and should England fail to deliver over the next few weeks, don't be surprised to see the pressure ramped back up on the Bayliss and Root partnership.
Furthermore, England's new selection panel has come under intense criticism over the last few days following their decision to recall the previously retired Adil Rashid back into the Test squad - much to Yorkshire's dismay - and with the likes of Keaton Jennings and Dawid Malan other names to have been backed by Ed Smith and his fellow selectors, results are the only currency England will deal in for the remainder of the summer.
England v India: First Test key details
The selection of Rashid is a contentious one but the player himself deserves more sympathy than what he has been afforded in the some quarters.
Rashid had been fully committed to the England cause until being overlooked for the first Test of the 2017 summer when Root began his captaincy by proclaiming that he'd 'had a big say in this team' that included two spinners, Moeen Ali and Liam Dawson, but had no room for Rashid even in the initial squad.
With Rashid having seemingly fallen so far down the red-ball pecking order, it was no surprise to see him concentrate on white-ball cricket thereafter but following a terrific year in the shorter forms of the game, Root and England have had a change of heart and so has Rashid.
It is certainly a bold move from England, but given the recent heatwave and Rashid's performances against India in the recent ODI series, it is one they have to take following Mason Crane's season-ending injury and Jack Leach's own injury problems this year.
As for India, this is a rare chance win a significant Test series away from home and having come so close in South Africa earlier in the year, captain Virat Kohli will be desperate for his side to seize the moment.
With England's current Test team struggling to find the correct formula, Kohli will sense a significant opportunity and can take heart from how his team fared against a top-class South African side when losing 2-1 just a few months ago.
India were highly competitive for the majority of that series, dominating parts of it, and given their batting line-up had to stand up to the likes of Kasigo Rabada, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel in hugely testing conditions, it is fair to assume that they will be well enough equipped to deal with the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Opening batsman Murali Vijay was one of India's best performers when India toured England back in 2014, amassing 402 runs at an average of 40.20, while Ajinkya Rahane's made a brilliant hundred at Lord's in that series to underline his quality in all conditions.
Major disappointments for the visitors on that tour were Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli and following a lean run for Yorkshire this season, and a pair of failures in the recent tour match at Essex, the former might well find himself out of the team if India decide to stick with opener Shikhar Dhawan and include the exciting Lokesh Rahul.
One of the key ingredients to India's strong recent form and improved showings away from home has been the emergence of a battery of pace bowlers.
However, news that Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah will miss the early part of this series at least has dealt a big blow to Kohli while Pujara's worrying recent form with the bat has made for a few selection headaches that India could do without coming into such a huge summer.
The recent heatwave will at least ensure India feel at home with the weather and given how dry pitches across England have become in recent weeks, there is a strong possibility that India will be able to field Kuldeep Yadav along with Ravichandran Ashwin in a varied two-man spin attack.
Should the sun continue to shine, that will clearly play into the strengths of the visitors whose batting continues to come under close scrutiny in conditions favouring seam bowlers with first under the microscope usually their leader and best player, Kohli.
Kohli is one of the great players of the modern game and following AB de Villiers' retirement, many would argue that he is now best of the current crop.
Twenty-one Test hundreds and an average of 53.40 is clear indication of what a brilliant batsman Kohli has become but question marks still remain over his record on these shores following his struggles in 2014, when only making 134 runs at 13.40 and proving particularly susceptible to James Anderson's probings outside off stump.
Many will be quick to point to that series as evidence as to why Kohli will struggle again in the coming weeks - Anderson said as much in India a couple of years ago - but the India skipper has clearly made significant improvements in his game since and his efforts in South Africa, when faced with with a high-class seam attack in brutal batting conditions, were nothing short of outstanding.
Kohli made 286 runs at 47.66 in that three-match series, the best numbers of any player on either side, and his 153 in Centurion was a world-class lone hand in which he withstood pace, bounce, swing and spin.
Watching him in that series, it was clear to see that Kohli has come a long way, and one of the biggest things has been his change in mental approach.
Instead of fretting about his off stump and when he should leave or play, Kohli seemed to have made a conscious effort in South Africa to trust his eyes and wonderful hands and back his talents to hit the ball.
This kept Philander and co interested, especially when Kohli choose to defend balls well outside off stump, but it also allowed Kohli to be clear in his approach and as we know, once he gets set, big scores invariably follow.
I'm backing Kohli to enjoy a strong return in this series and the recent heatwave has only heightened my confidence.
Quite simply, Kohli is comfortably the best batsman on either side and the 6/1 available for him to finish the series as the leading runscorer simply must be taken.
England's aforementioned struggles in this form of the game over the last few years, coupled with prevailing conditions, would suggest that India represent decent value at 23/10 to win the series.
Their victory in the T20 series and solid showing in the subsequent 50-overs offering suggests there is not between both groups but the aforementioned question marks surrounding the make up of the Indian team means I'm happy to duck the outright market and sit back and watch what should be a wonderful spectacle.
For those looking for interest in the first Test on Wednesday, I'm keen to side with Vijay in a couple of individual markets.
As already stated, he enjoyed a strong series here back in 2014 and a first innings fifty against Essex, compiled in almost in three hours of batting, should have put him cherry ripe for Edgbaston.
An old-style opener who leaves the ball well and likes to occupy the crease for long periods, he looks worth a supporting to make over 26.5 first innings runs at 10/11 with the 2/1 available about him making a first innings fifty also appealing.
Posted at 1330 BST on 30/07/18