England begin their four-match Test series against India this week with all signs pointing to a thrilling opener. Both sides head in to the first Test in Chennai on Friday with confidence on the back of compelling series wins.  

Joe Root’s side dominated Sri Lanka, but this will be a different trial entirely.

Root to lead the way for England

England have now won five consecutive Tests away from home, a sequence last achieved in 1914, and are a team with momentum going into this tough series. There were a lot of positives to take out of Sri Lanka, notably Root returning to form and making 426 out of England’s 1,005 runs across the series. The Indian bowlers will certainly be fearful of his presence at the crease; he showed in Galle that if he gets in, he’s able to go big. It’s no surprise then that he is the 7/4 favourite to lead England’s run charge in the first innings of the first Test, while him to do so in an England victory is available at 12/1. There were also encouraging signs for Dan Lawrence in Galle. Lawrence looked settled as he brought up his maiden Test 50 on debut, the 103rd player to do so for England.

In the bowling department Jimmy Anderson took his 30th five-wicket haul in the second Test against Sri Lanka, some 18 years after his first on the international stage. Traditionally Anderson has struggled to perform in India, but he appears reinvigorated of late and his experience is only a positive. He is currently 3/1 to lead the England wickets column in the first innings of the first Test.

Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes re-join the squad after some time off and will offer the tourists plenty of attacking bowling options, particularly as the pitches in India haven’t been conforming to the sub-continent stereotype in recent times. However, this has bred a dangerous Indian fast bowling unit that will have plenty to say, although India’s key danger will remain their off-spinner Ravi Ashwin, who is 2/1 to take the most first innings wickets for the hosts.

Visitors hoping to repeat 2012 heroics

The hosts are 4/9 favourites to win the first Test on the back of their inspired victory in Australia, with England 9/2. India have been a pillar of consistency at home in recent years, unbeaten on their own turf since England sealed a 2-1 win in 2012. In the same series that Joe Root made his England debut, the victorious side also included two quality spinners in Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. Now captain, Root will not have the same quality at his disposable that his predecessor did.

While Dom Bess and Jack Leach continue to improve, this is a new challenge entirely where the 1-2 bad balls per over seen in Galle will be severely punished by Indian batsmen. England’s chances can be bolstered with the return of Moeen Ali, who missed out in Sri Lanka, and is 7/2 to be England’s leading wicket taker in the first innings.

Virat Kohli returns to captain the India side having missed out in Australia, a series that India won in a gripping final day, and he will certainly not want to miss out on making an impact in this series. He, like Root, can be destructive with his talent, and with an extra ferocity to his game he can punish England if they don’t find a way to get him out early in his innings. Unsurprisingly, Kohli is the 15/8 favourite to lead his side as the top Indian batsmen in the first innings. This series can be billed as a battle between the two captains, both of whom have the capability to bat long and carry their side home. Plenty more will be known after the first Test, but what is known for now is that this first Test will not be one to be missed.

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