India vs England: Graeme Swann hails Channel 4 coverage as 'lockdown godsend' [Exclusive]

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Test match cricket returned to free-to-air television in the UK on Friday for the first time in more than 15 years.

Channel 4 secured the rights to show England's tour of India - which began today with the start of the first Test in Chennai - having snatched a last-minute agreement.

The terrestrial broadcaster survived interest from both Sky Sports and BT Sport to land the deal, which will see them screen live coverage of the four Tests, three One Day Internationals and five Twenty20s between the two nations over the next couple of months.

Channel 4 last showed live Test match cricket during the legendary Ashes series of 2005. All of England's 161 Test matches since then have only been available on paid subscription platforms.

Speaking exclusively to GIVEMESPORT about the Channel 4 deal, former England off-spinner Graeme Swann spoke of the positive impact of the agreement for sports fans forced to stay indoors because of the current lockdown restrictions.

"I think it's amazing," said Swann - who will be sharing his thoughts throughout the series in his blog as an Ambassador for Betfair.

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"Sky television has been incredible for English cricket. It's vital because of the money that comes in and (because of) how the game has grown under Sky.

"But having that terrestrial TV element that Channel 4 will bring is a massive boost. Especially during lockdown as well. Imagine being stuck at home doing homeschooling or whatever and then the cricket comes on. What a godsend!"

Cricket fans on Twitter certainly agreed with Swann's sentiments this morning. User @NickBennett58 said "Great memories of watching Cricket on 4 with my son. Now I am able to educate my Grandson. Lockdown homeschooling started early this morning!" 

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Also pleased by the Channel 4 coverage was @RyanEdwxrdss who wrote "Cricket on free to air is huge, I know people have fell out of love with the game just simply because every form is on Sky Sports, massive well done to Channel 4."

Swann, who took 255 wickets in 60 Tests during his own international career, was part of the last visiting team to win a Test series in India. England recorded a 2-1 series victory on Indian soil back in 2012 - and the Indians have remained unbeaten at home ever since. 

A fearsome Indian side - led by skipper Virat Kohli - entered into the series as deserved favourites. However, Swann - speaking before the start of play - insisted that Joe Root's England side definitely have the tools in their arsenal to make an impression in India:

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"I think if England use their strongest aspects well enough; Jofra Archer's shock tactic, Ben Stokes as a world-class all-rounder, Joe Root scoring as heavily as he can. If they can all perform alongside Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, then England can definitely win a Test match," explained Swann. 

After winning the toss and choosing to bat, England captain Root certainly justified Swann's confidence by scoring very heavily indeed on day one of the Test match.

Entering the fray after his side had lost both Rory Burns and Dan Lawrence with the score on 63, Root quickly set about rebuilding the England innings alongside opener Dom Sibley. Playing in his 100th Test match, Root refused to be fazed by the occasion, constructing a magnificent century as part of 200-run partnership with Sibley.

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Sibley's time at the crease was ended with the final ball of the day. Indian seamer Jasprit Bumrah trapping him LBW for 87. The disappointment of Sibley should not take away from a fabulous first day for England.

England will resume tomorrow morning with Root keen to build on his 128 off 197 balls. With the likes of Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler yet to bat, England will be intent upon building a big first innings lead in conditions that are known to deteriorate as time goes on.

Claiming his third hundred in as many Test matches, the day belonged to Root. His 20th career century will be one that he won't soon forget - and will have delivered great entertainment to the millions of cricket fans watching on Channel 4. 

For more from Betfair Ambassador Graeme Swann, head to his blog here.

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