England will play five Tests while on tour in India, with the first match taking place in Hyderabad; Follow the series across Sky Sports’ digital platforms with live blogs and reports from Thursday (4am UK time).
Image: Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir
In 2022, it was leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed who came to the fore when he took a magical five-for on his debut during England’s tour of Pakistan.
This time the punt is on uncapped duo Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir, who could both to make their Test debuts during England’s tour of India.
The conditions will be unforgiving and the stakes are high as England look to become the first team to claim a Test series win in the country in 12 years.
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Hartley and Bashir have a modest first-class record between them but impressed England men’s managing director Rob Key on a recent Lions training camp in Abu Dhabi.
Hartley and Bashir will aim to replicate the meteoric rise of Ahmed throughout the tour, and who better for the pair to learn from than the leggie who became the youngest England men’s cricketer to play in all three formats of international cricket?
Age: 24 | Height: 6ft 4in | First-class record: 40 wickets at 36.57
Image: Tom Hartley plays cricket for Lancashire and has 40 first-class wickets
Left-arm spinner Hartley naturally brings something different to England’s slow bowling attack with his height. He towers at 6ft 4in which means he has a higher release point and can bowl at a slightly quicker pace that will keep the stumps in play.
Hartley made his one-day international debut against Ireland in Nottingham in September last year and has two ODI caps for England.
He has played in only 20 first-class matches and five list A matches but it is clear that England have spotted some raw talent that they hope to develop over the coming months.
Image: Tom Hartley played in the inaugural edition of The Hundred featuring for Manchester Originals
“It’s nice to see people recognise that I might be the bowler to go out in India and do well. When people have confidence in you like that, it’s fantastic,” Hartley said.
“I just feel all that confidence has been passed on to me and I can’t wait to go out there. My stats might not be the best in Championship cricket but I bowl very similar to (Indian left-armers) Axar (Patel) and (Ravindra) Jadeja.
“They’re taking a bit of a punt but I feel like I’ve proved myself in the training camps that I’ve been on and I deserve to get a go.”
While Test cricket is unknown territory for the 24-year-old, who will be joined on tour by Lancashire team-mate James Anderson, he has plenty of T20 experience to draw from having played in 82 matches.
Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton look ahead to England’s Test series in India and compare the difference in experience in the spin attacks.
During the inaugural edition of The Hundred, Hartley was entrusted with the very first over for the Manchester Originals and duly clattered Sam Curran’s off-stump. His ability to stay composed under pressure, despite being hit for six the previous ball, will also have grabbed the attention of the England selectors.
“I feel like the pace, the revs you want to put on it and the shape of the ball will be very similar to white-ball areas – you just want to bowl that little bit fuller,” Hartley added.
“As much as Indian’s batters are good players of spin, the conditions should be in my favour. You’ve just got to try not to over-complicate things and keep things simple and keep the stumps in play.
“India’s spinners are great but can we perform as well as them? There will be a lot of fight in us.”
Age: 20 | Height: 6ft 4in | First-class record: 10 wickets at 67
Image: Shoaib Bashir, Somerset off-spinner first-class stats
Off-spinner Shoaib Bashir joins England’s quadruple spin attack alongside Ahmed, Hartley and fellow Somerset player Jack Leach.
However, more uncertainty looms for England as Bashir’s arrival in India for the five-match series has been delayed by visa issues.
Bashir, who is of Pakistani heritage, was born in Surrey and is a British passport holder but this is not the first time players with Pakistani backgrounds have had issues with their visas when travelling to India.
In February 2023, Australia’s Usman Khawaja also had visa delays ahead of their tour of India and the Pakistan World Cup squad also faced visa delays in November last year.
People of Pakistani origin are required to submit additional details for obtaining an Indian visa, according to the website of the Indian High Commission in London.
“He’s got a couple of issues with his visa coming through. We’re confident on the back of the help from the [Indian cricket board] and the Indian government that it will sort itself out pretty quickly as well,” head coach Brendon McCullum said.
“We’re hoping the news will come through today that his visa has been approved, then we’ll get him to sink his teeth into this series.”
Joining Hartley in the 6ft 4in crew, the 20-year-old offie is also able to get a high release point and extract bounce bowling from his height.
Of the three uncapped players, who also include Gus Atkinson, Bashir certainly appears the most left-field choice, but Key believes England’s hierarchy spotted something special in the youngster at UAE training camp.
Sky Sports’ Nasser Hussain says exciting young spinner Shoaib Bashir ‘will fit in absolutely fine’ in the England squad to tour India from January.
“We saw him last summer and you catch a glimpse of a few balls where you think there is something different there,” Key said speaking to Sky Sports.
“Bashir is very raw and he’s going for experience as much as anything else. We won’t be afraid to play him. Hopefully we’ll see a world-class spinner in the future.”
Bashir was joined at the training camp by some of England’s greats, including Graeme Swann and Andrew Flintoff – the latter of which helped England to an Ashes victory in 2005, when Bashir was just one year old.
England will play five Tests while on tour in India, with the first match getting under way in Hyderabad on Thursday, January 25.
England Test squad for India series
Ben Stokes (captain), Ollie Pope (vice-captain), Rehan Ahmed, James Anderson, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Shoaib Bashir, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes, Tom Hartley, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Mark Wood
Follow England’s five-Test series in India across Sky Sports’ digital platforms with live blogs and reports. The opening game is in Hyderabad from Thursday (4am UK time).
India vs England fixtures
- First Test, Hyderabad: Thursday January 25 – Monday January 29
- Second Test, Visakhapatnam: Friday February 2 – Tuesday February 6
- Third Test, Rajkot: Thursday February 15 – Monday February 19
- Fourth Test, Ranchi: Friday February 23 – Tuesday February 27
- Fifth Test, Dharamshala: Thursday March 7 – Monday March 11
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