India and England resume their rivalry in the longest format of the game after sharing the honours in the limited-overs legs of the long tour.
The world number one Test side are heading into the series, bidding to shed their tag of poor travellers. After having suffered a 4-0 defeat in 2011 and a 3-1 defeat in 2014, the onus is on Virat Kohli and his men to set things right in the upcoming five-Test series, starting August 1.
India haven't had a lot of success in England over the years. In fact, they have managed to win only six out of 57 matches. The last of the only three series wins came in 2007 when a Rahul Dravid-led side beat the hosts 1-0 in a two-Test series.
However, a confidence-boosting show against South Africa in the Rainbow Nation earlier this year should come as a huge boost to the tourists.
The pace bowling unit, as England opener Alastair Cook points out, has a lot of variety and depth, which was absent from the Indian sides that toured the Old Blighty in the past. Against South Africa, the Asian giants were able to pick 20 wickets in all three Test matches.
Having mentioned that, the absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah is being seen as one of the major concerns for Kohli & Co. The former has always been a reliable customer overseas, especially in conditions that assist swing and seam bowling while the latter had an impressive debut series against the Proteas.
Nonetheless, the Indian team management is backing the experienced pacers in the side to get the job done in the upcoming series.
Change in weather, change in team combination?
India were optimistic about their chances when the weather was unusually harsh in England over the last few weeks. However, rainfall on Sunday came as bad news even as the visitors were forced to cancel their training session.
Cloudy weather is predicted during the course of the first Test and seemingly rich grass cover should tilt the balance in favour of fast bowlers, especially the English duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad who are excellent exponents of swing and seam bowling.
India are likely to go in with three frontline pacers along with a spinner if cloudy conditions continue in Birmingham.
Given the performances of Kuldeep Yadav in the limited-overs leg, Kohli and the team management would have been tempted to include the young wrist-spinner in the playing XI. However, seasoned off-spinner R Ashwin, in all probability, is expected to be the only spinner in the side for the first Test.
Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav are certain starters. Meanwhile, Mohammed Shami, despite not having played first-class cricket regularly in the recent past, might get the nod as the third seamer ahead of inexperienced Shardul Thakur.
The availability of seaming all-rounder Hardik Pandya gives good balance to the Indian side.
Shikhar Dhawan or KL Rahul?
Meanwhile, Kohli needs to make a few tough decisions when it comes to the batting department. Opener Shikhar Dhawan and first-drop Cheteshwar Pujara have not been in the best of forms but the visitors might still stick with the duo, given their previous experience of playing in the Old Blighty.
It remains to be seen if India will opt for KL Rahul, who has often been benched despite consistent performances.
Dinesh Karthik is all set to don the role of the wicketkeeper in the absence of injured Wriddhiman Saha. Young Rishabh Pant received his maiden Test call-up for the upcoming series but India might not want to risk going in with an inexperienced stumper straightaway.
No place for Moeen Ali in the XI
On the other hand, England's pace attack will be led by Anderson and Broad while 20-year-old left-arm pacer Sam Curran has join them. The hosts have included leg-spinner Adil Rashid and have dropped Moeen Ali.
Probable playing XIs
England (confirmed): Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Joe Root (c), Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami.
Pitch and predicted weather conditions
The Edgbaston pitch, with the return of moisture, will help the pacers at least for the first two days as clouds are expected to hover around. It remains to be seen if there will be assistance for the spinners on the track that has traditionally offered them very little.