Six things to watch out for during the India v England Test series on Channel 4

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England are touring India and it’s on Channel 4. Here’s what you need to know ahead of the series (which starts on Friday).

First, a quick recap of where we are right now and how things have gone in the past.

India just beat Australia away from home despite suffering half a million injuries, while England just beat Sri Lanka away from home, in large part thanks to Joe Root.

If that sounds like everyone’s in great form and it’s going to be a great and competitive series, it’s worth pointing out that India’s was a far greater achievement and also England pretty much never win in India except for that one time they did.

Here are some things to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

The TV

All of the Tests, all of the one-dayers and all of the T20s will be on Channel 4. This is, potentially, quite a big thing and it’ll be interesting to see just how big.

Maybe don’t get your hopes up too ludicrously high about the quality of the broadcast however, given that they only signed the deal 48 hours before the series was due to begin. That’s not great prep time.

One other thing to note is that while the live broadcast is on the main channel, at the time of writing the highlights are only going out on the All 4 on-demand service which might be an issue for some people.

Mambo No.5

Channel 4 have confirmed that they will be using their ‘classic’ theme tune, which is an instrumental version of Mambo No.5 by Lou Bega.

If you watched Channel 4’s coverage in the early 2000s and thought it was a shite choice back then, we’d be interested to know if it now elicits a warm feeling that all is right with the world. We think that’s kind of where we are with it, but we won’t know for definite until we hear it ‘live’.

Now onto the cricket.

England’s bowlers

England managed to field four wicket-taking bowlers in 2012, which is a quantity they can’t usually unearth for Indian conditions (more on that shortly).

In Sri Lanka, they went with a policy of picking one wily veteran seam bowler, one left-arm seamer, one fast bowler and two spinners. This is a decent and unusual balance for England, who are prone to heading into overseas Tests looking a bit fast-medium.

They won the Sri Lanka series, so you’d think this is a solid way of going about matters. However, there is pressure to do things differently.

The two wily old seamers – James Anderson and Stuart Broad – performed better than the other quick bowlers. ‘Why not pick both?’ people ask.

‘Because they essentially do the same job,’ we answer – but we may well be drowned out.

India’s XI

India were handing out caps to net bowlers during their (victorious) Australia tour. We have no idea who is and isn’t fit at this point.

Virat Kohli will be back and sounds like Cheteshwar Pujara will play despite maybe not being quite 100 per cent fit. (Perhaps minor injury will further impede his strokeplay.)

It was also pointed out to us this week that Jasprit Bumrah has never actually played a Test in India, which is quite the thing and probably not a fact that will endure.

The pitches

India’s seam attack is so good these days that some absolute dementos will be calling for them to prepare pitches accordingly.

Look, this is really simple. India’s seam attack might well be a bit better than England’s, but it’s up for debate. Their spin attack is definitely better however. You can also guarantee that India’s fast bowlers, spinners AND batsmen are all likely to perform better than their opposition counterparts on the kinds of pitches they’ve grown up with.

Don’t overthink it.

The ball

An obvious and eternal ‘thing to watch’ for players as well as fans, but doubly so for this series as they’ve apparently tweaked the SG ball a bit, meaning it might give bowlers a bit more to work with.

The word is that the new SG is harder and has a bigger seam. It should bounce more, seam more and turn more and also retain those qualities for longer.

Whether that alters the default India five-day Test rhythm – nothing happening, nothing happening, something maybe happening, EVERYTHING HAPPENING REALLY FRIGGING FAST – will be interesting to see.

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    1. If you mean Freddie Flintoff’s ‘Ring of Fire’ series – that colossal success was a drawn series. More on that here.

      England also lost 1-0 in 2008.

      The reaction to that drawn series is actually a pretty good measure of how England tend to perform in India. The series win in 2012 was the first in 28 years.

    1. Oh sorry, gotcha now. That was just throwaway wording on our part really indicating there hadn’t been many in recent times.

      76-77 and 84-85 were England series wins in India.

    1. Strong contender for the first series of The Ridiculous Anthony de Mello Trophy when we get round to it.

      1. I have a clear memory of spreading the newspaper on the floor of the sitting room of our first house, aged seven or eight, reading the line: “Graham Gooch has always been allergic to all Indian food.”

  1. Mambo No 5 just reminds me of the 2005 Ashes, for which I will forgive it almost anything.

    Being associated with the 2005 Ashes is such a powerful factor with regard to music that it even made me relatively sympathetic to the Embrace song ‘Ashes’, as it was used in coverage at the end of the series.

    1. Just as a test, we texted Prince Prefab the word “Embrace”.

      He replied: “A dour Shed Seven. Less dynamic than Cast. More plodding than the Bluetones.”

      We thought that was a bit harsh. The Bluetones were quite chipper.

      1. Axar would have done worse.

        Apparently Nadeem does well when the pitch starts doing something. It is still mostly comatose as of now.

        Axar is mainly a stumps to stumps type of bowler. It looks like Washington is his replacement.

        Unfortunately Nadeem has come in instead of the chinaman Kuldeep. Such a total shame really.

        India should have gone with their best 5 bowlers & not worried about the number of no. XIs in the Eleven

    1. The altruistic side of me is delighted that the cricket is on terrestrial TV (although I’m sure that is an anachronistic misnomer), the selfish side thinks that as I actually pay for Sky, I shouldn’t have to watch Cook and some other bloke, apparently camouflaged into the awful set, reading banal tweets all through tea.

  2. The coverage seems ok but there’s a lot of inane chatter. “You don’t need great technique, if you’ve got good attitude you’ll get runs and wickets”. My attitude is pretty good but I’m not sure I’d do well as a test match cricketer. But maybe I have too high an opinion of my attitude.

  3. Good cricket this.

    The bland nature of the coverage might start to irritate me after a while, but for now it is enabling us simply to enjoy watching the match.

    I particularly enjoyed Ali Cook saying “the first ten minutes will be really important” before quickly correcting himself with the platitudinous “I mean, the first hour…” was punditry gold.

    1. I cannot explain why I woke up at 3:45 to hear that pre match comment, btw.

      Daisy reckons I have some bizarre form of internal test cricket clock. Were I a migrating bird it would explain how and why I know to join a swarm at just the right time and fly thousands of miles with them.

  4. England looking on course for a big one. But as always, it could all change so quickly. Do England fans expect their batting to collapse more than Indian fans do?

    (yes, I still expect an Indian collapse at the fall of every wicket, and they do come off rather spectacularly sometimes – look at Adelaide)

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