England v India predictions: Virat Kohli to inspire his side to Test series victory
Three of The National's sport writers give their opinions on who will come out on top in the five-match series and which individuals will excel
England have not lost a five-match series on home soil since 2001.
India's lone triumph in England in the past 32 years was a 1-0 win, in a three-match series, back in 2007.
History dictates England start as favourites. They have won seven of their past nine Tests at home to India.
But what do The National's staff think as Virat Kohli's No 1 Test side look to prevail over Joe Root's England.
Here are there views on what to watch out for and what they think the outcome will be.
Graham Caygill, Sports Editor
Who is going to win: India started well in 2014 but could not sustain it then as they lost the final three Tests. But crucially they have improved while arguably England have weakened, at least with the bat in recent years, and their top order has failed to convince as a unit. Prediction: India 3-1
Best batsman and why: Virat Kohli. India's captain has struggled in the past in England, but he returns more experienced and as team captain. Kohli is too good not to score runs here and he will likely make James Anderson regret his attempts to wind him up with his pre-series comments.
Best bowler and why: Ravichandran Ashwin. The long hot summer in England should help prepare wickets that will help take spin. England have struggled against spin for what seems like forever, and Ashwin could be a thorn in England's side, particularly at Old Trafford, if the weather remains warm.
Player to watch: Ishant Sharma. Took wickets in England four years ago, most notably the seven at Lord's that gave India their lone win. If he can find his range and bowl with consistency he may find further joy against the home side's fragile home side.
Player to disappoint: Keaton Jennings. England have turned to the Lancashire batsman to try and solve the openers problem that has still not been resolved since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012. Jennings certainly has the spirit, but there are still flaws to his technique and India have the bowling quality to exploit them and give the 26 year old a tough summer.
Paul Radley, Sports Reporter
Who is going to win: Looked at logically, the hosts should have little chance. Their Test form has been hideous for an extended period, while India, riding high at the top of the rankings, are a well-oiled machine.
Also, a UK heatwave that has brought temperatures more suited to Mumbai than Maidstone might limit the traditional threats – swing and seam – associated with playing England in their back yard.
But Edgbaston, where the series starts, is a fortress for England, and Trent Bridge holds happy memories for them, too, specifically against India. It could be more even than the form and rankings suggest. Prediction: India 3-2
Best batsman and why: Virat Kohli. Because he has a point to prove. Everyone else in the world sees his greatness, but the English public only have what they saw last time to go on. He averaged just 13.40 in 10 innings in 2014. Expect a lot better this time.
Best bowler and why: James Anderson. The player of the series the last time the two sides met in England, four years ago, when he took 25 wickets in the series at 20.60. If the weather remains set fair, it might blunt his threat slightly. But England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker has long been a canny practitioner, whatever the conditions.
Player to watch: Adil Rashid. One stunning delivery in a one-day international, prompting a GIF-friendly reaction from the game’s most famous player, and suddenly Rashid is the cure for all England’s spin-bowling woes. Again. In 10 Tests so far, that has not exactly proved to be the case, though, and he will be under the scanner when he makes his return.
Player to disappoint: Shikhar Dhawan. Made a century before lunch on Day 1 of his most recent Test appearance, albeit on the flattest of tracks against rookies Afghanistan. He bagged a pair in the warm-up match against a second string Essex attack, and will not find the England new-ball attack easy to handle.
Chitrabhanu Kadalayil, Assistant Sports Editor
Who is going to win: Neither side. Weather and - by extension - pitch conditions will likely suit India, which their spinners should take advantage of. But the batting remains a worry. It is hardly a finished article despite the experience. England, though, have the same problem. So while it might be a question of who blinks first, neither side seems good enough to win the series. Prediction: 2-2.
Best batsman and why: Joe Root. While the spotlight has been on India captain Virat Kohli, this series is just as important for his England counterpart. Like Kohli, Root is the best player in his side. But unlike him, he has not produced anywhere near his best, batting-wise, after being handed the reins. Root has yet to score a Test hundred since August 2017, but he has been solid in the middle. ODI form does not necessarily translate to Test success, but back-to-back centuries in the recent series show Root is eager for a fight.
Best bowler and why: James Anderson. The England fast bowler has been eagerly awaiting the upcoming Test series. He may be past his peak, but he loves a challenge and quite obviously cannot wait to bowl to Kohli. England's highest wicket-taker will be back fresh after a break and should pose a challenge to India's batsmen.
Player to watch: Moeen Ali. The all-rounder troubled India's batsmen the last time they toured England for a Test series in 2014. Moeen could not reproduce that form on Indian soil two years later, but he has been in good form with bat and ball in the limited-overs series. Having been dropped from the Test side earlier this year, he will eager to excel. The off-spinner might be a handful on the England pitches, particularly if they facilitate turn.
Player to disappoint: Cheteshwar Pujara. India's top-order batsman endured a poor series last season in South Africa where he was either running himself out or doing that to somebody else. Prolific at home, his form abroad has dipped in recent times. He somehow looks unsettled in Kohli's team. With Lokesh Rahul - an opener who can bat in the middle order - in the squad, he could come in if Pujara does not perform in the first and second Tests.
Updated: July 29, 2018 07:18 PM