England and India return to action this Wednesday. It feels like months ago that their white-ball action finished. The red-ball takes centre stage as Test cricket returns to our lives at Edgbaston.
India currently sit atop of the ICC Test Match Rankings, while England languish down in fifth due to some indifferent form.
England have won just one of their last nine Test matches. A 4-0 defeat in Australia, 1-0 defeat in New Zealand and drawing a two-Test series with Pakistan has reopened the debate about the running of the Test team.
Coach Trevor Bayliss is unlikely to survive another poor series so the pressure is well and truly on the England coach.
India, in stark contrast, have won 10 of their last 11 Test series. The one blemish was a 2-1 defeat away in South Africa last winter.
That streak includes the 4-0 thrashing of England in India a couple of years ago, too, when England were repeatedly bamboozled by Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
Jadeja and Ashwin return for this series. Kuldeep Yadav, who tormented England at times with the white-ball, may well play at Edgbaston.
Kuldeep is on the short side at 11/20 to take over 1.5 first innings wickets, however, given how England adapted to his left-arm variations.
Ashwin is at 6/1 to be the match’s top bowler in the first innings. Ashwin, like most spinners, is a far more effective bowler late in the match. Bowling in the third and fourth innings, his average is just 22.30, in the first two innings it is up at 28.39.
These are still great numbers for a spinner but, when combined with his lesser numbers away from home, 6/1 doesn’t look great value.
James Anderson leads the top bowler betting at 9/2. Hardly surprising, of course, given Anderson’s record and the Indians’ difficulties facing him in the past.
His record at Edgbaston is stellar, too, averaging just 21.92 in Tests. Add in potentially damp conditions in the days before the match, and that 9/2 looks good value.
Virat Kohli is one man with plenty to prove against Anderson. It’s remarkable to say that about a player of Kohli’s immense skill and reputation, but he struggled mightily in England last time.
Succeeding in England is the one remaining criticism of the India captain. He sits at 9/2, along with Joe Root, to be the top batsman in the first innings. Kohli is better value than Root due to his ability to convert fifties into big centuries.
Alastair Cook has built mammoth knocks against India in the past, both at home and away. The former Test skipper scored 180 for the Lions against India A a couple of weeks ago and notched 243 in his last Test at Edgbaston.
It’s been very much feast or famine for Cook in the last couple of years, but that makes his 13/2 to be top batsman very tempting.
England are favourites to win the Test at 21/20. At the time of writing, their XI is uncertain, but controversial selection Adil Rashid is expected to play.
The leg spinner did well in the white-ball matches and took plenty of wickets against India in the subcontinent. England need Anderson, Cook and Root to deliver as they look to rebuild confidence in their Test side.
India are probably the better bet at 2/1 to win the match. This will come down to how India play the moving ball and if any England batsman can occupy the crease for longer than a session.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*