Cricket expert Ryan Elliott, +84pts in profit, brings you an in-depth preview for the upcoming Test series between India & England - with a whole host of betting tips.
India vs England - Correct Score
Prices are correct as of 10:30am on 4 February 2021.
India vs England Test series’ are always special events. While this iteration will have the Covid cloud hanging over it, we should still be treated to a festival of incredible cricket.
England come into this on the back of a really impressive 2-0 series win against Sri Lanka. While they aren’t anywhere near the quality of India, any victory in the sub-continent is hard to come by, so it should still be viewed as a job well done.
Of course, the top-order’s issues against the turning ball remain, as do the spinners’ continued inconsistency, which must be resolved sooner rather than later, but all in all Chris Silverwood will be delighted with his side’s work.
However, this India side look ominously good. Their incredible series win in Australia paints just how big England’s task this winter is, not to mention the return of Virat Kohli, who missed the last three Tests in Australia.
England too welcome back some big players, namely Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, while Rory Burns will also slot back into the side. Skipper Joe Root also has the luxury of picking Ollie Pope, who has recovered from a shoulder injury.
So, do England stand a chance? Well, of course they do, but I’m still backing a fairly comfortable series win for the hosts.
While England’s attack will be strengthened by the return of Stokes and Archer, I’m still struggling to see how an Indian top six of Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant is regularly bowled out cheaply.
Tipping-wise, I’ve gone for 3-1 India. Kohli dominated England in 16/17, as did Ravichandran Ashwin with the ball, and while there’s much to like about this England side, I simply can’t give them more of a puncher’s chance.
Jack Leach shows plenty of promise with the ball and will doubtless improve, but right now Dom Bess isn’t a Test class spinner, and unless Root wants to plump for the undercooked Moeen Ali—or indeed his own part-time bowling—as a second spinning option, Bess will certainly be targeted by the Indian batsmen.
I’m also a little disappointed about seeing Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow missing out at various stages. Buttler has finally made the Test gloves his own, and is playing the best Test cricket of his life, so for him to only play one match is a real shame, while Bairstow misses the first two matches, despite an impressive showing against Sri Lanka.
Of course, it’s totally understandable why they’re being rotated given the current climate, but it’ll hurt England on the pitch.
However, reason why I’m not backing a whitewash is twofold:
Firstly, it takes one poor batting performance to turn a match. India were generally superhuman with the bat in Australia, but they were still bowled out for 36 in Adelaide, and just one bad session on a turning deck could give England a sniff.
Secondly, England have a number of match-winners in their side. One mammoth Joe Root innings could turn a game in England’s favour. Ben Stokes could don his Superman outfit yet another time. Archer, Jimmy Anderson or Stuart Broad could produce a dream spell with the ball.
It’s still unlikely England will win many days of cricket over the next few months, but the side is only improving from here, and giving a little leeway for one of the visitors to do something special has been taken into consideration for this 7/2 tip.
India have drawn just two of their last 28 Test matches—both away from home—so I’m hesitant including any draws in this prediction.
India vs England Test Series Odds:
India Top Batsman
Deciding India’s top batsman was the hardest part of this article for me – and a delicate balancing act between likelihood and price.
The obvious choice at the top of the market is Virat Kohli. The Indian skipper was supreme in 16/17, and averages 60.92 on home soil, but a price of 2/1 is just too skinny to back against the field.
Two of India’s top six I won’t be backing instead are Shubman Gill and Ajinkya Rahane. Young opener Gill showed bucket-loads of promise in Australia, scoring a couple of stylish 50s, but it’s still an undoubted risk to back him at just 5/1 – a relatively poor price, in my view, for an inexperienced (though very exciting) player.
As for Rahane, he’s become somewhat of an away specialist. The Indian vice-captain averages just 39.29 in India, compared to 44.45 on the road, and against England his average drops to 25.79, so he won’t be touched.
That leaves Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant and Cheteshwar Pujara, and I’ll be tipping up the first two.
Pant is priced at a ridiculous 14/1 by some bookies, which is simply bonkers. He’s a match-winner, a maverick. Is he as unerringly consistent as Kohli? No, but he’s also capable of the absolute sublime, like he showed in Australia, twice, so 14s is a massive price in my view.
I’m also backing Rohit over Pujara for two reasons. Firstly, 4/1 for Pujara is less inviting that 11/2 for Rohit on home soil. Yes, Pujara batted bravely (and very well) against the Aussies, but still averaged just 33 that series, only marginally better than Rohit (32.25) – though the latter threw his wicket away after impressive starts on a number of occasions.
Furthermore, Rohit averages 88.33 in 20 home Tests, which stacks up very well against Pujara’s 50.61 which, obviously, is still very, very good.
Pujara is a better overall Test batsman than Rohit, but the opener’s price, considering his home record, makes him a better bet for me.
Top England Batsman
Moving onto England’s batting, and I’ll be backing Ollie Pope at 8/1 for the visitors’ top run scorer.
Joe Root is rightly a big favourite in this market, but I simply can’t be backing him at 5/4 – although if his price remained at 2/1, like it was at the start of the week, I most certainly would be.
Root played spin like a dream in Sri Lanka, but should India produce slightly more seam-friendly pitches than what we’re used to, a possibility considering their attack, then the playing field will be levelled, so Root’s price just can’t be justified.
So, a number of factors come into play for my decision to back Pope.
Firstly, now that he’s been passed fit for the Test series, there are only four other recognised batsmen who also stand a chance of playing the whole series: Joe Root, Rory Burns, Dom Sibley and Ben Stokes.
Root we’ve touched on, so let’s move onto the top three. Barring his brave-but-streaky 50 in the second Test against Sri Lanka, Dom Sibley, alongside the injured Zak Crawley, really struggled against the turning ball. Crawley’s wrist issue has ruled him out of the first two Tests, so the inexperienced Dan Lawrence will have a longer run in the side.
The left-armed Lasith Embuldeniya had England’s openers on a string in Sri Lanka, and while Ravi Jadeja’s absence will come as a huge relief in this respect, they’ll still have Ravichandran Ashwin to deal with, as well as possibly Axar Patel, who poses another dangerous left-arm option.
Rory Burns, who will open with Sibley, hasn’t played much cricket of late, and averages considerably less against spin than against seam, which doesn’t bode well for his battles with Ashwin.
Roston Chase got Burns out five times last summer, so 5/1 for the Surrey man to top score for England doesn’t cut the mustard.
As I mentioned, it remains to be seen how spin-friendly the wickets will be, but India’s seam attack is so good, the English batsmen will not get much respite.
Stokes, also 5/1, is always capable of winning a game single-handedly, and he’s also a good player of spin, but his averages of 38.33, 31.17 and 32 in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh respectively aren’t quite high enough for me to be too bullish about him.
There’s no doubting he’s playing the best cricket of his life, but I’d still sooner take the 8/1 on a brilliant batsman in Pope who is also likely to feature in every game.
He’s far from the finished article, but Root and Stokes are Pope’s only major threats in this market, so taking a chunky 8/1 with this in mind could prove very handy.
Top India Bowler
Time to move onto the bowlers! Starting with India, I’m taking a bit of 2/1 on R. Ashwin to be India’s leading wicket taker.
India’s talismanic off-spinner doesn’t actually have a sparking record against England, but was still the top-wicket taker in 16/17, and his record in India is superb: 254 wickets at 22.80 apiece.
While we don’t know how India’s spin attack will be comprised over these four Tests—with left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, offie Washington Sundar and left-arm orthodox Axar Patel all in contention—you can bet Ashwin will feature in every game. He’s also the best spinner of the lot, which helps.
Jasprit Bumrah, playing his first ever Test in India, would you believe, does look good value at 9/2, while fellow seamers Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Siraj are 5/1 and 9/1 respectively, but I still can’t look past Ashwin.
As good as Bumrah is, Ashwin has delivered time after time on home soil, and 2/1 for him to essentially take more wickets than Bumrah and the other less potent spinners looks worth the gamble for me.
Top England Bowler
Finally, I have two tips for England’s top bowler.
My first pick is Jack Leach at a fairly generous 31/10, in my view. Leach is a better spinner than Dom Bess and Moeen Ali, and should be England’s first choice for the duration of the series.
44 wickets @30.50 trumps Moeen’s record (36.60) as well as Bess’ (33.10), and the fact he’ll be turning the ball away from India’s top order full of right-handers (Rohit, Gill, Pujara, Kohli and Rahane) will also work in his favour.
Spin should ultimately win the day, whatever pitches we see over the course of the series, and as England’s best spinner, Leach should be backed.
Jofra Archer also looks a massive price at 8/1.
Archer is England’s only seamer likely to play four Test matches, following his rest during the Sri Lanka series. Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad will probably be rotated between themselves, and considering Mark Wood and Sam Curran have gone home, much of the weight will be on Archer’s shoulders.
I’d still sooner back a spinner over a seamer for this series (as I have done), but 8s for Jofra still looks absolutely huge considering Chris Silverwood’s insistence on rotation amongst the other quicks.
Back the Rohit, Pope, Ashwin & Leach four-fold at 285/1.