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Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Lord's Test could suit outsiders India

England struggle to follow up victories

India's Virat Kohli celebrates his century against England
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Second Test
Sky Sports Cricket & Main Event, 11am Thursday

Two flawed teams combined to create a thrilling first Test at Edgbaston and the second game between England and India at Lord's should be another compelling contest.

The first of five Tests was marred by batting collapses and dropped catches from both sides but it also featured some sublime batting from Virat Kohli and a spirited comeback from England, led by Sam Curran and finished off by Ben Stokes.

Stokes's dismissal of Kohli on the final morning effectively clinched England's 31-run win but the all-rounder misses the second Test due to his trial for affray at Bristol Crown Court.

Kohli, who scored 200 of India's 436 runs in the series opener, will demand a response from his teammates as the tourists attempt to replicate Pakistan's victory over England at Lord's in May.

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England's lack of ruthlessness almost cost them at Edgbaston where they collapsed from 216-3 to 287 all out in their first innings and let an inspired Kohli add 92 with India's last two batsmen.

Second time around, India were unable to polish off the tail, trading at 1-5 in-play before Curran's dashing innings of 63 gave England's bowlers something to defend.

However, the outsiders are worth chancing against an England side who generally struggle to follow up Test victories.

Last summer they were pegged back by South Africa and the West Indies after winning the opening game, and their record at Lord's is patchy.

Pakistan eased to a nine-wicket win at HQ in May, having also won there in 2016, while Australia (2015) and India (2014) also stormed St John's Wood.

Ishant Sharma, who took 7-74 in the second innings of India's victory four years ago, picked up a five-wicket haul at Edgbaston, where fellow paceman Mohammed Shami also looked lively.

But spinner Ravichandran Ashwin could be the key bowler for the tourists. He looked a constant threat in the first Test, claiming 4-62 in the first innings before taking out England's top three in the second innings.

Even with right-hander Ollie Pope replacing left-hander Dawid Malan, England batting order is packed with southpaws for Ashwin to torment and he also dismissed the right-handed Joe Root and Jos Buttler at Edgbaston.

Root's needless run-out for 80 derailed England's first innings and, having watched his opposite number Kohli score a wonderful 149, he will be determined to go big at Lord's.

Three of his five highest Test scores have been made at the Home of Cricket, including last summer's 190 against South Africa, and he can star in a batting line-up that remains far too inconsistent.

2pts 2-1 Sky Bet
R Ashwin top India first-innings wicket-taker
2pts 11-4 Betfair
J Root top England runscorer
1pt 14-5 188Bet

England's comprehensive defeat to Pakistan in May was their fourth defeat in eight Lord's Test matches.

Spinners took only two of the 31 wickets to fall in that game but they should be more effective after the long dry spell and Moeen (2017) and Pakistan leggie Yasir Shah (2016) have claimed recent ten-wicket hauls at HQ.

Team news
Surrey's uncapped 20-year-old batsman Pope is set to replace Malan at number four. Stokes's unavailability means a return for Moeen Ali or Chris Woakes.

India may be tempted to play another specialist batsman in Cheteshwar Pujara, with Hardik Pandya the most likely to drop out.  

Light showers could briefly delay the start on day one but four dry days should follow with temperatures from 20-24C.

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Pakistan eased to a nine-wicket win at HQ in May, having also won there in 2016, while Australia (2015) and India (2014) also stormed St John's Wood
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