India v England: How the tourists can avoid a 5-0 whitewash

Bangladesh celebrate a wicket against England
England's batsmen can expect similar pitches, bowling and field placings as they encountered in Bangladesh
India v England: First Test
Venue: Rajkot. Date: 9-13 November. Time: 04:00 GMT
Coverage: Live Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra & BBC Sport website, tablets, mobiles and app; live text coverage on BBC Sport website

England have one of the toughest assignments in world cricket ahead of them between now and Christmas.

They will play five Tests against India - the world's number one ranked team - in hot, stifling conditions and on pitches which are sure to suit the home side's spin bowlers.

It's been suggested by some that England face a 5-0 whitewash. That's an easy thing to say but there's no doubt they will have it tough.

Hopefully they will show enough to change the opinion of the doomsayers. For that to happen, however, they need a number of factors to go their way...

Find a way to score big runs

Jos Buttler made his Test debut against India in 2014, hitting 85 off 83 balls in Southampton
Jos Buttler made his Test debut against India in 2014, hitting 85 off 83 balls in Southampton

England's top order must produce and find a way of scoring first-innings runs, which didn't happen in Bangladesh.

Debutant Haseeb Hameed will open the batting and Ben Duckett move to four in place of Gary Ballance, who has been dropped.

Ballance averaged just six in the two Tests in Bangladesh and, such is the importance of the number four spot in the team, England need somebody who is contributing.

This tour is a notch up from the previous one to Bangladesh, and it's going to be harder.

Only those who can find their own way through it are going to survive. Those who can't do it will fall by the wayside.

Bowl well as a unit

James Anderson is back with the squad after recovering from injury, but he will not play in the first Test.

Instead, England will probably play three seamers (Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes) and three spinners (Moeen, Adil Rashid and Gareth Batty).

I had my first look at the pitch on Monday and it had more grass than I expected. It's a fresh pitch which hasn't been used before, and it's not as worn as I expected either.

There was a healthy covering of grass on the Rajkot wicket on Monday
There was a healthy covering of grass on the Rajkot wicket on Monday

Everything about the stadium in Rajkot is impressive - the nets and facilities are outstanding.

However it's 15 miles out of town and that will mean people won't come to watch it - how are they supposed to get out here? That aside, it's a well-appointed stadium.

I hope it will host a pitch which is typical of this part of the world, but one which will last five days.

If that's the case, England's bowling attack must bowl with control. Both the spinners and seamers must bowl maidens and build pressure.

That would help England take advantage of any complacency and mistakes by the Indian batsmen, who may try to make a statement by going after Moeen or Rashid.

Win the toss!

Virat Kohli won the toss in every match of the series against India's two previous visitors, South Africa and New Zealand
Virat Kohli won the toss in every match of the series against India's two previous visitors, South Africa and New Zealand

The toss is very important and, unfortunately for England, Alastair Cook doesn't have a great record of winning them. By contrast, India captain Virat Kohli seems to win them all.

That isn't really something England can control, however. It makes no difference to the fact England must score runs in their first innings.

They have to go out there and fight harder than they've ever done before for each and every session.

There are some things which England can point to as positives: the fact India are missing one or two players through injury, that the hosts are not as experienced in Test cricket as you might expect, and that it might take them time to get used to using the Decision Review System (DRS) effectively.

But India are determined to cement their place as number one in the world and desperately want the ranking points England hold by virtue of their success in the last series played between the two sides.

A word for Stuart Broad

Broad will play in his 100th Test here, which is a phenomenal achievement for a man who only started bowling fast when he was 17.

I have known Stuart for a long time and, on a personal note, I am chuffed for him and his family.

As he showed in the first Test in Bangladesh, he still produces incredible spells of bowling - whether it's because his dander is up, because he's cross, or purely because he is needed to stand up by the team. He just knows how to find that extra gear.

He also knows how to have a joke with the travelling press corps.

Stuart was one of the England team who revelled in Alastair Cook catching me having a pedicure.

I had only nipped in for a haircut so my heart sank when I saw Cook coming through the door. The players have enjoyed a good laugh at my expense but that's all part of the fun of touring.

I've yet to catch any of the players having a pedicure, but Stuart would be near the top of my list if I had to predict!

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Cook mocks Aggers over pedicure picture

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Marc Higginson.

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