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The key battles that could determine the series outcome

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 08-11-2016

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Ashwin v Cook, Jadeja v Root, Kohli v Broad - who will come out on top?

For all that cricket is a team game, it is ultimately a series of individual battles that decide the outcome.

The Test series between India and England has all the ingredients to be an absolute corker, with a number of top class performers on either side.

Hosts India go in as strong favourites in conditions that are expected to expose England's weaknesses but here, with the help of former England skipper Nasser Hussain, we look at three key head-to-head clashes that could make all the difference come the end of the five-match run…

Ravichandran Ashwin v Alastair Cook

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As an opening batsman, Cook's main challenge is usually trying to get the better of a burly fast bowler. The 6ft 5in Ashwin fits half that description but it is the wily off-spinner's carrom ball rather than the late swing of the new cherry the England skipper must be wary of in India. Ashwin may not take the new ball but with spin-friendly conditions a near-certainty, it won't be long before Cook will be faced by the world's No 1 ranked Test bowler.

However, Cook boasts an impressive record in the subcontinent, is a superb player of spin and excelled during England's triumphant tour of India in 2012. Doing so again would mean overcoming arguably the game's most in-form bowler. Whoever comes out on top of this particular battle will have significantly improved their sides' chances of success...

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Nasser says: "The way Ashwin has bowled over the last couple of years and in particular the way he's bowled to left-handers - his record against left-handers is absolutely phenomenal, I think it's even better than Graeme Swann's was.

"Obviously Cook is a wonderful player of spin and he's got more runs than anyone other foreign player in Asian conditions. He had a reasonably quiet time of it in Bangladesh so that battle - their star bowler against one of our star batsmen is going to be absolutely vital.

"They might not open with Ashwin as Bangladesh did with the Mehedi Hasan but if Cook can show the left-handers a game plan and a way of going about playing Ashwin while he is in the middle, that will calm and comfort the dressing room. That is going to be a massive battle."

Ravindra Jadeja v Joe Root

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How England cope against spin is likely to be the biggest factor in the outcome of the series and it is not just Ashwin they have to worry about. The left-arm spin of Jadeja will also test the England batsmen, in particular the right-handers with the ball spinning away from them.

Of those right-handers, Root will be seen as the prize wicket for India. The England No 3 has established himself as one of the world's leading batsmen in any conditions and the tourists will need him to prove it again, and deal with Jadeja's threat, in the next two months...

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Nasser says: "Root, with Cook, is one of England's best two players of spin. A lot of the talk has been about Ashwin and the way he has bowled recently. But Jadeja in home conditions where the odd one turns and the odd one doesn't will be a handful, especially for England's right-handers.

"Even though Root has a fabulous record in Test matches against left-arm spin - he averages about 67 against left-arm spin - recently in one-day cricket and against Bangladesh he's been getting out to left-arm spin to balls that don't turn, like the ball that got him at Dhaka.

"Jadeja is very clever, he'll bowl the odd slower ball that spins, he challenges both edges of the bat and he'll suddenly bowl that quicker ball and with DRS now being used in India as well, it brings in the lbws."

Virat Kohli v Stuart Broad

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India's premier batsmen against the leader of the England bowling attack, certainly with James Anderson missing for the first Test at the very least. Kohli struggled on India's most recent tour of England as the hosts' seamers - Broad included - found a frailty just outside his off stump.

Two years on and in home conditions, keeping Kohli under wraps is a different proposition entirely. The 28-year-old now captains his country and is considered the world's best batsman by many, recently striking a career-best 211 in the Test series with New Zealand.

However, England's seamers continue to impresse, even on pitches offering them next-to-no support with Broad at the forefront. If he is able to find a bit of swing with the new ball, use his cutters to good effect and get the ball reversing later in the innings, Broad may fancy his chances of coming out on top against Kohli...

Nasser says: "This is another massive one. Kohli is obviously India's star player, a fabulous player and he's in great form of late.

"He went through a quiet patch a couple of months ago in Test match cricket but just towards the end of that New Zealand series, in all forms of the game, he's been absolutely phenomenal - a run machine. So he goes into the series in good nick.

"Obviously, last time he was in England, he struggled. England bowled very well at him and he didn't get many runs at all - he kept nicking off outside off stump. England bowled a fifth stump line and got him edging, playing away from his body.

"That is in England, in India with not so much movement, not so much bounce and carry, you might not even have two slips at times. I think they'll be a bit more in it for England's seamers in India than there was in Bangladesh but that isn't difficult because there was nothing at all for them there, apart from a bit of reverse swing.

"England will have to get him in early and they've been helped a bit by the amount of injuries India have had - Rohit Sharma, Lokesh Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan are missing for the first Test - so there is an opportunity. The lads they are bringing in are good players, Gautam Gambhir and so on but the key man is still Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara is in good nick at No 3.

"So if they can get him in early or, if it's a bit later, get that ball reversing and hope that there is enough carry and bounce to get Kohli playing away from his body, they have a chance."

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