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BIRMINGHAM: England captain Ben Stokes won the toss and elected to field in the Covid-delayed fifth Test against India at Edgbaston on Friday.

Stokes started his reign as skipper with a 3-0 series whitewash of Test world champions New Zealand, bowling first on each occasion, and was able to repeat the formula in Birmingham after the coin fell in his favour.

“We’ve done well chasing in recent games but the toss was dictated by the overheads,” said Stokes on an overcast morning. “The pitch looks good and we’ll try to put them under some pressure.

“As I’ve made it quite clear, we’ll be coming out with the same attitude towards playing Test match cricket.”

India were without captain Rohit Sharma on Friday due to the coronavirus, with fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah leading the side for the first time in his absence. Cheteshwar Pujara replaced opener Rohit in the XI.

‘Biggest privilege’

Bumrah, also speaking at the toss, said: “It’s a good feeling, a massive achievement for me and the biggest privilege in our sport.

“I’m very happy with our preparation, we played a practice game at Leicester and now it’s about bringing it into the game.”

England had already announced their XI on Thursday, with all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson returning from an ankle problem to replace debutant stand-in Jamie Overton.

Sam Billings, a Covid substitute for Ben Foakes in the third Test at Headingley, was behind the stumps again with England’s first choice wicketkeeper still not fully fit.

Anderson stunned by ‘fearless’ England transformation

England’s team contains just four survivors from the team – Joe Root, Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow and Anderson – that lost to India at the Oval last year to fall 2-1 behind in a five-match series.

India again omitted leading off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, as they did in each of last year’s four Tests in England.

All-rounder Shardul Thakur was included, with India’s formidable pace attack supported by slow left-armer Ravindra Jadeja.

Pujara, without a Test century since 2019, was at the top of the order missing Rohit and injured fellow opener KL Rahul, who both scored heavily in England last year.

Former captain and star batsman Virat Kohli was also looking to end a three-year run without a Test hundred.

India are bidding for a first series win in England since 2007 and just their fourth in all after successes in 1971 and 1986.

By playing the game, albeit almost a year later in what has become the longest-running series in Test history, India are helping to fill what would be a £40 million ($48 million) hole in English cricket’s finances.

Since September last year, England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison has left his post, as has chairman Ian Watmore.

Chris Silverwood is no longer the England coach and Root has stepped down as captain.

Kohli gave up the India captaincy in February and Ravi Shastri retired as India coach last November to be replaced by Rahul Dravid.

Teams

England: Zak Crawley, Alex Lees, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes (capt), Sam Billings (wkt), Matthew Potts, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, James Anderson

India: Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wkt), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah (capt)

Umpires: Aleem Dar (PAK), Richard Kettleborough (ENG)

TV umpire: Marais Erasmus (RSA)

Match referee: David Boon (AUS)

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