England arrives, tough challenge beckons

With the close-in cordon surrounding the batsmen, the ball will turn and bounce with shouts of ‘howzat’ renting the air.

Welcome to the Indian conundrum.

The English team landed here from Sri Lanka on Wednesday to face one of the toughest challenges in cricket — defeating host India in a Test series.

The first of the two Tests in Chennai gets underway on February 5; the teams will start practice only from Feb. 2.

Under quarantine

Skipper Joe Root & Co. joined their teammates including influential all-rounder Ben Stokes — he has the ability to impose his will on a match — who is already under a quarantine in the city.

Also coming in batches here were the Indian team members including skipper Virat Kohli.

They are high on morale after their exploits in Australia.

England will not be short of confidence either after having triumphed 2-0 in a two-match Test series on pitches offering turn in Sri Lanka.

Driving force

And Root, rediscovering his mojo, was the driving force with innings of 228 in the first Test and 186 in the second.

The first game in Chennai would be Root’s 100th Test — at 49.39 he has an average inching towards 50.00 that so often is the cut-off point for greatness — and it would be a pity the match would be played before empty stands.

In off-spinner Dom Bess and left-armer Jack Leach, not to forget off-spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali, England has a useful spin attack. These men, though are not in the same league as Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, who, bowling quicker through the air, ambushed the home team in the 2012 Test series in India.

That series defeat was also inflicted by some scientific and methodical batting from left-handed opener Alistair Cook and some inspirational strokeplay by the gifted Kevin Pietersen, whose 186 on a spiteful wicket in Mumbai has to be rated among the greatest innings against spin in our times.

England, like India, has a worthy pace attack — old warrior James Anderson’s swing, Stuart Broad’s seam, and Jofra Archer’s sheer pace and hostility.

There is plenty to play for. At stake will be pride.

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