Matches (20)
IPL (3)
Women's Tri-Series (1)
USA vs CAN (1)
WI 4-Day (4)
County DIV1 (5)
County DIV2 (4)
ACC Premier Cup (2)

The India-England series will come down to a battle of the top orders

The inconsistency of England's top three batsmen may tip the scales slightly in India's favour

Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
Rarely has a series pitted such well-matched No. 4 batsmen against each other  •  Getty Images

Rarely has a series pitted such well-matched No. 4 batsmen against each other  •  Getty Images

No sooner is one serious challenge accepted and robustly brushed aside than another is on the doorstep.
The upcoming India versus England Test series has the potential to be an enticing contest similar in intensity to the one recently completed in Australia.
India will start as favourites after an exhilarating victory over Australia, overcoming all obstacles. When you add the name Virat Kohli to the batting order, the team suddenly assumes a bulletproof cloak. In also adding the names R Ashwin, Hardik Pandya and Ishant Sharma to the list of available players, India take on an unbeatable appearance.
Likewise, England can point to improvements they can make to the side that won convincingly in Sri Lanka. The availability of a premium player in Ben Stokes who, like Pandya, provides all-round ability and selection flexibility, albeit at a higher level than the Indian, is a big plus. And Jofra Archer adds substantially to the quality of an already strong pace attack.
However it's the top of the England order, where another returning player, Rory Burns, will reside, that the scales tip in India's favour.
India's top three feature an impressive Shubman Gill, a talented but flawed Rohit Sharma and the indomitable Cheteshwar Pujara, which places them well ahead of England's top order.
Dom Sibley possesses the grit and determination required for success at the highest level but there are questions about his technique against the best international bowlers. In India and Australia he will face two of the best in fairly quick succession so that question will be answered in the next 12 months.
Burns is another in the same category as Sibley, and if both players fail the challenges England will be in trouble unless Joe Root continues to score at his current freakish level.
Zak Crawley, like his Indian counterpart Gill, is talented and has great potential. Nevertheless his failure to contribute in Sri Lanka raises concerns that need to be put to rest quickly and there's no better place or time to do that than in India.
Unfortunately, any advantage England might gain from Root's incredible form at No. 4 is immediately negated by India's best batsman also holding down a similar position. Rarely does a series feature two such well-credentialed No. 4 batsmen.
The middle order of both teams are a mixture of explosive stroke play with a touch of steadiness for good measure. Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant and the possible addition of Pandya have India well placed to take full advantage of any good start. The ability to swiftly accelerate the scoring is nearly as important to winning Test matches as the capability of taking 20 wickets.
England are similarly placed with Stokes and Jos Buttler as their lethal weapons. The possible return of Ollie Pope would add some dependability to the threatening nature of that section of the batting order. However Buttler's departure after just one Test and the possible return of Ravindra Jadeja to the Indian line-up would swing the scales further in favour of the home team.
The presence of Archer, along with the skill and experience of stalwarts Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, would normally provide England with an advantage in the pace department. However India's improvement in that category is amply illustrated by their performance in matching Australia's much-vaunted pace attack in two successive away series.
Not only does India now have quality pace bowling but they also have it in comforting quantities following the depth displayed in Australia.
For years now the rest of the cricketing world has rested uneasily in the fear that India would finally utilise its population advantage by nurturing and selecting its best talent. That day has finally arrived.
These mouth-watering Test series are to be savoured. With all the challenges Test cricket faces - Covid-19 just being the latest - the future of the format is not guaranteed to be as generously giving as it has been in the last few months.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a columnist