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India v England: 'Tourists have momentum - and expectation - before second Test'

James Anderson and Ben Duckett
James Anderson (left) is set to become the oldest seamer to bowl in a Test in India

India v England, Second Test

Dates: 2-6 February Venue: Visakhapatnam Time: 04:00 GMT

Coverage: Live text commentary on BBC Sport website and app with daily Test Match Special podcasts on BBC Sounds.

That's the thing about expectation. When it goes up, so too does the chance of being disappointed.

Fresh off the heroics of Hyderabad, England will meet India in the second Test in Visakhapatnam on Friday with expectation - outside the team, at least - exponentially higher than it was a week ago.

There are good reasons too. Warmth remains from the fire of the 28-run win in Hyderabad, one of England's greatest overseas wins of all time.

The problems would appear to be India's. At one point during the first Test they were on course for victory inside three days, only to find themselves 1-0 down in the five-match series.

They have lost Ravindra Jadeja and KL Rahul to injury, the all-rounder and batter joining the already absent Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami and Rishabh Pant. Losing the star power of such a quintet has ripped the guts out of the India side.

England were already without Harry Brook and must now cope with an injury to first-choice spinner Jack Leach, but this still seems like a superb opportunity. Not that England will get carried away - this is a team that constantly tell us they "stay where our feet are".

On this occasion, their feet are at the Bay of Bengal, on the eastern coast of India. The Rajasekhara Reddy Stadium is a few meaty slog sweeps from the sea.

The city, an important naval port, feels fit to burst, not only because hotels are jam-packed but also with the excitement of the occasion. Taxi drivers chat about the Test; groundstaff ask for selfies with the travelling journalists. There are posters by the side of the road celebrating local boy KS Bharat, which is like lining the A134 with pictures of Ben Foakes if England ever played in Colchester.

India have won the only two previous Tests here by more than 200 runs. In the most recent, against South Africa, Rohit Sharma made a hundred in each innings and even had a bowl.

This time India coach Rahul Dravid reacted to defeat in the first Test by travelling from Hyderabad ahead of the squad to get a feel for conditions.

The curator has been sensitive about the surface and on Thursday ordered his staff to cover it up when journalists got too close, only for England captain Ben Stokes to then ask for the covers to immediately be removed so he could take a look.

The pitches on which this Test and the remaining three matches are played form the key part of the narrative for the rest of the series.

In 2012 India backed themselves to outspin England and were wrong. Three years ago they made the same call and were right. There is a theory that amping up the turning pitches now would play into England's hands, and India should actually back their bowlers to be better than the tourists on flat decks.

One thing for certain is that England's sweeps, reverse-sweeps, switch-hits, slogs and scoops befuddled the hosts in Hyderabad.

If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then India have been full of adulation for England between Tests. Their bowlers have been working on how to deny England playing their shots and the batters practising how to play them for themselves. Having throw-downs in the middle on Wednesday, Shreyas Iyer tied himself up like a pretzel trying to play the reverse.

Still, even on the back of a defeat and with the long list of absentees, India are a formidable proposition.

Rajat Patidar, with two hundreds against the England Lions last month, is poised to replace Rahul, while Kuldeep Yadav, who has matured into one of the finest wrist-spinners in the world, could take the place of Jadeja.

If the hosts decide to go a different route, their spare batter Sarfaraz Khan has a first-class average of 69.85, the fourth-highest of all time. Left-arm spinner Sourabh Kumar has nearly 300 first-class wickets and off-spinner Washington Sundar's four Test caps is more than England spinners Tom Hartley, Rehan Ahmed and Shoaib Bashir put together.

Only two matches ago, in the Ashes series finale at The Oval, England fielded an XI boasting the most Test wickets in the history of the game.

Now the attack has a lopsided look, with James Anderson, at 41 about to become the oldest seamer to bowl in Test cricket in this country, joined by the three rookie spinners.

Ahmed's two caps make him the most experienced of the lot. Hartley fills in at the family garden centre when he's not playing cricket. Bashir, making his debut in place of Leach, was first spotted by Stokes in a video on Twitter.

Among his many qualities as captain, managing inexperienced spinners seems to be one of Stokes' super-strengths.

Ahmed, Hartley and Will Jacks picked up five-wicket hauls on their debut. Delving deeper, the previous 10 spinners on England debut, from Simon Kerrigan in 2013 to Matt Parkinson in 2022, returned a combined 18-1,135 at an average of 63. For Ahmed, Hartley and Jacks, the numbers are a remarkable 22-529 at an average of 24.

Stokes' own figures are growing increasingly impressive. Of captains to have led in 20 Tests (Stokes has done 19 since 2022, plus one standing in for Joe Root in 2020), only Steve Waugh can better Stokes' winning percentage of 70% - and Waugh had Shane Warne.

It is a small sample size, but also an indication of what Stokes has achieved, especially when you consider he inherited a team that had won one in their previous 17 matches.

This week Stokes will move to 99 Tests in one of the most storied careers English cricket has seen. On Thursday he bowled for the first time since knee surgery in November, on the road back to being a genuine all-rounder in the summer.

The word is he has rediscovered his ability for ferocious training, no doubt liberated by the health of that troublesome left knee.

One area Stokes can definitely improve on is his use of DRS - England had five unsuccessful reviews in Hyderabad. Wicketkeeper Foakes said this week that the tourists need to devise a process for their referrals.

In the field, three chances of varying degrees were missed in the first Test and only two batters - Stokes in the first innings, Ollie Pope with his epic 196 in the second - passed 50. There were plenty who got starts, and England need to make them count.

If momentum exists, England have it, even if they have been down this road before. In 2021 India lost the first Test but roared back to win the next three.

Regardless of the result last week and the players missing from the India squad, beating them in any Test in this country remains a monstrous task. They rarely lose twice in a series and so seldom lose the first two Tests that the last time it happened, in 2000, Stokes was still a New Zealander.

"Through success comes expectation," said Stokes on Thursday.

He's right, so there may also be disappointment.

Whatever happens from Friday, this series is already set up to be a cracker.