Pick your England team for 1st Test

With pacer Jofra Archer, opener Rory Burns and star all-rounder Ben Stokes back in the England squad, the visitors are likely to have some competition for spots in the team for the 1st Test against India.

Cricket resumes in India with a month-long, four Test series, with the hosts taking on England in the first Test starting at the M A Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Friday, February 5.

Both teams started the new year tasting success away from home — an injury-riddled India stunned Australia to win the four Test series 2-1 while England overpowered Sri Lanka in a two Test series.

Can England carry that momentum into India?

Captain Joe Root says his side ‘couldn’t be in a better place’ to challenge India as they bid to become the first side to win a Test series in the country since Alastair Cook led England to a 2-1 triumph in 2012.

On the back of his double hundred in the first Test and a century in the second at Galle, Root, who will be playing his 100th Test on Friday, is in hot form.

Scoring 426 runs in four innings, at an average of 106.50 and his ability to play spin better than most, sees him in with a chance to embellish his milestone Test with big scores.

With the England and Wales Cricket Board following a rotational policy, Ben Stokes, who was left out of the Sri Lanka tour, is back as Root’s deputy.

The star all-rounder’s skills are beyond doubt and we know of his ability to take the game away from the opposition.

Last year, Stokes left the Pakistan series midway after the first Test because of his father’s illness, but in the preceding red ball series against the West Indies last July — the first amid the pandemic — Stokes helped his team level the series with a century before the hosts clinched the series 2-1.

Also returning to the squad are Opener Rory Burns and Paceman Jofra Archer.

While Archer will vie for a place with Stuart Broad to partner James Anderson in the opening two Tests, the 21-Test-old Burns, who missed the Sri Lanka series to be with his wife for the birth of their first child, could be an automatic pickfor the opener’s slot.

With Burns’ return, Zak Crawley, the makeshift opener in Sri Lanka, is set to bat one down, ahead of Root at 4. Crawley didn’t score too many runs in the island nation but returning to his favoured No 3 spot could help him find form in Chennai.

Dom Sibley, Crawley’s opening partner in Sri Lanka, failed in both innings of the first Test with single digit scores, but struck a half ton in the second innings of the second Test after a duck in the first.

Both Crawley and Sibley failed against Lasith Embuldeniya’s left-arm spin and will be glad that Ravindra Jadeja is out of the first two Tests with injury, allowing them to make amends.

Another player packed in this young squad is 22-year-old Dan Lawrence who made his England debut last month. He gave a good account of himself, looking to score quickly while playing assertively against spin.

Jos Buttler, who had a decent run in Sri Lanka with a half-ton, will play the first Test and then head home. Young Ben Foakes, considered one of the best wicket-keepers to spin bowling, is set to take Buttler’s place in the second Test.

What will have England beaming though is the show put up by their spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess. Left-arm spinner Leach claimed 10 wickets in Sri Lanka while off-spinner Bess took 12 in England’s series sweep, meaning Moeen Ali may have to wait longer to return to the playing eleven.

Skipper Root and Coach Chris Silverwood will hope Bess and Leach can do an encore in India.

England has awesome seam bowling options in Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes and rookie pacer Olly Stone, and Root and Silverwood will have to pick which of the pacemen will play.

Traditionally, the pitch at the M A Chidambaram Stadium has been spin friendly, but going by indications from Chennai, expect a green-top, with something in it for everyone — batsmen, pacers, spinners.

Who do you think should be part of England’s playing XI for the first Test? Please pick your team by clicking on the boxes below:

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