In the week that saw Lord Ian Botham appointed trade envoy to Australia, England’s current crop of cricketers are looking to beef up their batting order as they take on India in the third Test.
Enough of the ‘Gogglebox-esque’ intros, there is not much to smile about when it comes to England’s current Test side. Still reeling from the embarrassment that was the second Test where the bowlers failed to dismiss India’s tail-enders, and then their batsmen put on a pitiful showing as they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
With the line-up rejigged, Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley dropped and Dawid Malan recalled into the fold, this is a new look England side who are looking to turn the tide. But these men are now being dropped in the line of fire against one of the finest bowling attacks in the world. India are in no mood to allow the hosts to escape unharmed.
Virat Kohli has his foot on the neck of Joe Root’s side, and if they fail to win this series comfortably it will be an unmitigated disaster for Indian cricket. That’s no exaggeration, just a reflection of where this England cricket side is at this present moment in time. The re-jig should help things, but India are by far and away the stronger of the two teams, while this Test also presents them the opportunity to create some history.
Not since Kapil Dev’s team of 1986 have they won two matches in a Test series on English soil. 35 years later, Kohli and his boys should match, and even surpass the record of their predecessors. For all of England’s woes over the opening two Tests, India have been superb.
When the game has come down to the key moments they have produced their best cricket, while over the five days their level of consistency has been remarkable. The lines of their bowlers have been inch-perfect where their hosts have struggled and in the field they have barely let a run go to waste, penning the opposition’s batsman in and piling the pressure on.
Although some of the names on England’s starting line-up have changed, it will be a case of more of the same for the visitors as they look to put this series beyond doubt at Headingley. As Joe Root’s side appear to have moved away from the principles of Test cricket in favour of success at the shorter forms of the game, India have stuck resolutely to their love for the five-day format. Their passionate nation wouldn’t have it any other way.
Of course, Headingley was the scene of perhaps England’s unlikeliest Test win in history, as Ben Stokes and Jack Leach batted their way into the history books against Australia, but it is telling that neither will be available here. Neither will Mark Wood, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Olly Stone and Chris Woakes. England are depleted, and the obvious lack of depth should be of great concern to Chris Silverwood.
In comparison, India are injury free and have no reason to change the XI that won at Lord’s with far more positives than negatives for Kohli to ponder. The slower, drier pitch could favour the spinners which could give England some respite given their injury issues, but as always, there is only truly one man who can carry the hosts to victory.
"There's three massive games to play in the series. It's a lot to play for and we're desperate to bounce back strongly," Root said in the build-up to this one. He is playing a completely different sport to the rest of England’s batsman, and in truth, most cricketers in the world.
This year, he has made 1277 in 10 Test matches, compared to his closest rival Rohit Sharma’s 690 and next best team-mate Rory Burns 363. It is a difficult way to set out to win a match, but if England’s captain gets a century in each innings, the hosts have a chance. If he doesn’t, India should win this one fairly comfortably.