After a very disappointing loss in the second Test, Joe Root may not feel any pressure with the bat currently, but it’s a different story with his captaincy.

It wasn’t to be for England in the second Test at Lords and some of the tactical decisions made by Root have been questioned since, but the return to Headingley for the first time since that Ashes Test in 2019 will be paramount in keeping this series alive for the hosts.

Return to Headingley

Eyes will no doubt be drawn to Joe Root’s captaincy this week on the back of the defeat England suffered primarily at the hands of tailenders, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami. Key decisions in the game were made under heightened emotions and in reality, were critical in England’s chances of claiming victory, this has led to questions about Root’s captaincy and the effect that carrying a batting line-up might be having on the Yorkshiremen.

However, time and time again Root is able to silence his critics and it will be no surprise to see him do that again at Headingley. England fans will turn up in their droves for this Test in the hope of seeing just a fraction of the drama that was provided here in 2019 against Australia, and while it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing anything close to that on this occasion, it doesn’t mean the Test will be lacking in its own storylines. Be that Root and his sublime form, England’s batting woes, or the Bumrah and Jimmy Anderson heated battle.

Anderson was revved up in the second innings after facing a barrage of aggressive short bowling from India’s main talisman, Bumrah, which coincidentally was also the battle that led to England’s downfall when trying to clean up the tail on day five. It was unclear whether Anderson would make the starting XI on day one after suffering from a niggle but he was still able to put in a shift in the first innings that resulted in his 31st Test match five-for. He will now come into the Headingley Test niggle free and ready to spearhead his countries attack once again. The importance of Anderson will be felt even more than usual with Stuart Broad out for the series and Mark Wood now ruled out of after suffering a shoulder injury while fielding at Lords. The 38-year-old can be backed at 2/1 to do the business in the first innings and claim the most wickets for the hosts.

At the other end of the order, England’s batting problems persist and are really becoming a significant issue, if they weren’t already before, and this has been highlighted by the selectors’ decision to send Dom Sibley back to county cricket to regain some confidence. Replacing him in the side is Dawid Malan, who has been making a name for himself in the T20 arena but is also a well-regarded Championship player. Whether he can cut it at this level with a red ball remains to be seen, though, and it’s been some three years since he last donned his whites for England. Root, as ever, is your 9/4 favourite to be the top run-scorer for the hosts and in his current form it’s exceptionally difficult to imagine a scenario in which he doesn’t lead that run column, particularly at his home ground.

Expect a comeback

India will arrive at the Leeds ground the 6/5 favourites to go two-nil up in the series and if that does happen, the final two Tests of the series will not be easy for England to draw results from. That’s why Root and his men will be up for the fight here, and at 13/8 they look appealing. However, if that is to happen, they will need to be prepared to really fight for it and get their hands dirty, something only Root has shown so far this series. The batsmen will be aware that seats on the plane to Australia are up for grabs here and no one can be ruled in or out on the basis of what we’ve seen so far. Jonny Bairstow is one player who is more than capable of showing the grit required to stand up alongside Root and put the game to the Indians, and can be backed at 5/1 to lead England’s run charge.

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