England will be playing India on the back of the three-Test series against New Zealand and former off-spinner Graeme Swann believes it would make the hosts slight favourites going into the rescheduled fifth Test starting in Birmingham on July 1. (More Cricket News)
England on Monday completed a 3-0 series whitewash against New Zealand after winning the third and final Test by seven wickets. “England are in a very good position and I would say they are slight favourites because of that series (against New Zealand),” Swann said in virtual interaction.
“And the fact that India just had one (warm-up) game in England, so they are coming in cold (for) the Test match, which is a bit of disadvantage. “They (England) have got the three Test matches under their belt, so that makes them pre-game favourites.”
Swann hailed the aggressive brand of cricket played by England under new captain Ben Stokes and new head coach Brandon McCullum and said this was a ‘bad time’ to face England. “It is a real bad time to play England because they just played these three games against New Zealand.
“You are going to face an England team where Joe Root is back to his absolute best, where Olive Pope is playing his best-ever for England. Ben Stokes has amalgamated the team and got playing in an ultra-positive and rock and roll fashion.
“There are chinks in the armour - the opening batting slot is still very weak. But nearly all the other spots had excellent (returns). Even the spinner Jack Leach, who is under a lot of pressure, has got 10 wickets in a match,” explained Swann.
The fifth Test is from last year's incomplete series against England which got rescheduled due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Indian camp. The 43-year-old, who has taken 255 wickets in 60 Tests, picked Root and Stokes as key players for England.
“It is quite simple for England, it will be Joe Root and Ben Stokes, if they continue their form, their sort of ethos, England will do well. Stokes is leading from the front and he is a natural leader. Joe Root is thriving and batting at his absolute best,” he said.
Talking about India, he said: "I think Jasprit Bumrah and Virat Kohli (key players). If Kohli plays with the same freedom that Joe Root is playing now, we are all in for a treat. “Virat is a wonderful player and if Jasprit gets his line and length with that Dukes ball, he is unplayable,” he added.
Cheteshwar Pujara hit four centuries, including two double centuries for Sussex in Division Two County Championships to force his way back in the Indian team and Swann felt that it would hold him in good stead in the one-off Test.
“He (Pujara) was phenomenal for Sussex, so that is massive bonus for India. Having a player who is in England at the start of the season, when the ball swings around, scoring so heavily, that gives him leg up the ladder, when he goes into the Test match,” he said.
Pujara, who was left out of India's home Test series against Sri Lanka earlier this year, amassed 720 runs in just 5 matches with an outstanding average of 120 for Sussex.