Rajkot - 9th-13th November 2016
Two sides with contrasting form come into this Test, with the hosts clinically despatching New Zealand 3-0 in their last series, and England failing to beat Bangladesh in challenging conditions. The conditions in Rajkot will not be dissimilar, and an inexperienced England side will face an extremely tough challenge, the first of many on this tour.
India will be without K H Rahul, Dharwan and Rohit Sharma here, and could bring in Karun Nair to bat at six, or potentially Hardik Pandya, depending on the pitch. The visitors have confirmed that Haseeb Hameed, 19-year old Lancashire batsman, will make his debut opening the batting, with Ben Duckett moving to four and Gary Ballance missing out.
Rajkot is yet to host a Test match, and has only hosted 16 first-class games. Notably, though, these 16 have seen 20 five wicket hauls for spinners, and this should give an indication of what England can expect here. Given their failings against weaker bowlers in the last test, England will, I expect, really struggle here. The 1.58 currently available to back India on the Betfair Exchange looks massive to me, as I though they would start around 1.45-ish, at least 10 ticks shorter.
The only thing that is putting me off steaming into India here is England's resilience. They are not a side that will roll over and die if things aren't going their way, and have been working extremely hard since their last Test to address their issues against spin. Ultimately, though, I don't think they have the quality to compete against what is a very good Indian team this time out, and the hosts should see them off relatively comfortably.
Looking at individuals, Ajinkya Rahane will be key to this India side with its diminished batting, and as someone who has really grown into his Test career, should be more than capable of taking on this responsibility. Against a relatively poor bowling attack, he should cover the 31.5 line here. Moeen Ali will be relied upon by England after a decent effort with the ball in Bangladesh. His live for wickets here is 1.5, and stands a great chance of covering this, especially if India target him like they did in 2012.
Trading Notes: Expect India to come out on top in the long run. A small back pre-off isn't the worst bet ever, as India are value at this price, but I'd suggest keeping some powder dry should England put up a bit of a fight and bigger prices are on offer.
Back Ajinkya Rahane to score over 31.5 runs at 1.83 with Ladbrokes
Back Moeen Ali to take over 1.5 wickets at 1.77 with Ladbrokes