England and India will be tempted to play two spinners in the second Test as a heat wave continues to sweep through London. With temperatures hitting the mid-thirties consistently, the challenge for the Lord's groundstaff has been to ensure there is enough moisture in the pitch to produce an even contest.
ESPNcricinfo understands this summer has been the most difficult ever at Lord's. The closest they had come to fighting against such oppressive heat was in 1976, but that match between England and West Indies was played a lot earlier, in mid-June. Surely Mick Hunt, the head groundsman who retires at the end of this season, would have like more helpful conditions for this farewell Test.
The surface remained under hover cover all through Monday to protect it from the relentless sun, but there is some reason to be optimistic. The mercury is set to slide down into the early twenties from Thursday and weather turning much cooler.
Pundits already believe both India and England - who begin training on Tuesday - may be thinking of playing an extra spinner. England's white-ball captain Eoin Morgan, who also leads the local county side Middlesex, reckoned conditions are likely to have "quite a significant" effect on the pitch.
"Lord's is a ground with a magnificent pitch, but with the way the weather has been, it is so difficult to keep the moisture not only in the pitch but actually in the square," Morgan said. "I think it will be quite similar to Edgbaston. You will have to assume it will turn and probably reverse swing will play a big part as well."
Later, when asked to put on the England selector's hat, Morgan chuckled and said: "I think you will have to consider two spinners. Everybody was surprised that both sides didn't go in with two spinners in the last game which probably took India away what naturally comes to them. At home they play two spinners. Both sides will look to play two spinners."
Former India offspinner Harbhajan Singh was of a similar mind. "India made a mistake even at Edgbaston going with one spinner. They could have gone with Kuldeep Yadav instead of Hardik Pandya even at Edgbaston, where the conditions were dry, the wicket was dry, where you know the sun is going to be out. So, India, they didn't read the conditions well. They went ahead choosing four fast bowlers and one spinner which didn't help them. Though they bowled beautifully, all seamers, but Hardik Pandya didn't bowl and didn't bat as the team wanted him to. So why play him?"
Harbhajan then explained why he would choose Kuldeep over Pandya or Ravindra Jadeja at Lord's. "He will create chances. He bowls googlies, legspin with the left hand. On the first day, suppose India were to lose the toss and they are still bowling (at the end of the day), this guy will create chances on a good track. Right hander or left-hander, Kuldeep is the guy because he (can) spin the ball both ways"
Former England captain Nasser Hussain, however, was less convinced. "Historically, it is not a ground I would go to and play two spinners. You look up at the Honours Board in both dressing rooms, there's the odd occasion, Swann I think, where spin plays a massive role. Shane Warne never got five wickets here."
Hussain suggested that India - more than England - would be contemplating the idea of playing two spinners, provided it didn't disrupt the "balance" of their XI. "Just with the summer you are having there is a good argument to say if you can balance your side still to get two spinners in. India might. Now they [England] have got more right-handers and if [Ollie] Pope and [Chris] Woakes play, you may want someone spinning it the other way, whether it be Jadeja or Kuldeep bowling his variations with a bit of mystery about it. So I would be more prone to India saying we will play two spinners than England."
Asked if would field both Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid at Lord's, Hussain said only if he was convinced the pitch was a "raging turner" and added he would have "actually played" Moeen ahead of Dawid Malan at Edgbaston since it wouldn't have had any impact on the balance of England batting but would have offered them another spin option. "Now that they have picked Pope I would probably have to play Pope. Unless you think it is going to be an absolute raging Bunsen, you could play one seamer less and Moeen. But it would have to be a raging turner to make that (change) because obviously lot of right-handers in the Indian side."
Nasser Hussain, Eoin Morgan and Harbhajan Singh were speaking at an event in London, organised by Star Pick, a fantasy sports platform.