The opening encounter of the India vs England Test series begins Wednesday at Edgbaston, Birmingham, a perennial losing venue for Asian sides.
Since its first international Test match in 1902, the Edgbaston Cricket Ground has played host to a total of 50 Tests and in recent years has become the location for the host nation’s opening salvo. As hosts, England have an enviable record of 27 wins and and 15 draws.
Out of the 16 Test matches played here by Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India, none have been able to secure a win. India’s best performance was a hard-fought draw in 1986 under Kapil Dev. That draw was a result of a strong top-order performance led by Mohinder Amarnath and Mohammed Azharuddin, with Chetan Sharma chipping in with 10 wickets in the match.
India’s current batting line-up under Virat Kohli is arguably as talented as the Class of 1986 and has a good chance of making an impact. But historically, India’s top order hasn’t done well at Edgbaston.
The top-order batsmen average only 26.2 runs an innings, with only Sachin Tendulkar managing to score a century in the six matches that India has played in Birmingham. No other Indian batsman has scored more than 80 runs in an innings at this venue.
India don’t have much to boast about in the bowling department as well. Chetan Sharma, Erapalli Prasanna, Kapil Dev and Venkatesh Prasad are the only Indian bowlers who’ve taken more than five wickets in an innings at Edgbaston. Among the current set of pacers, only Ishant Sharma has actually played a Test in Birmingham. His record isn’t anything to write home about either.
Among all the Test sides that have played at Edgbaston, India’s bowlers average a dismal 49.51, the worst among all nations.
England, as the home side, are an exceptionally strong bowling side at Edgbaston. They average 27.74, a little over half of Indian bowlers’ average.
Indian vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane felt that his team’s bowling attack could dampen English spirits despite Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s absence. And in fairness, the bowling unit is coming off a strong performance in South Africa. Even Alastair Cook said that India’s bowling depth is arguably going to cause some trouble for the hosts.
Statistically, though, there is a clear gap between the English bowlers and India’s young pace attack.
History is stacked against the Indian team at Edgbaston, but Kohli’s men have little regard for numbers and history. A lot will depend on how dry the pitch is. If the heat has any impact on the playing conditions, India might overturn their poor record here.