The fourth test of the series will be played between India and England from ThursdayIndia had made the lead by winning the Lord’s Test, England equaled by winning the Leeds match, the spinners performed well in the Oval, in front of Team India, who should join the teamLondon
All eyes will be on the in-form Ajinkya Rahane and senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin when the Indian team is gearing up for a comeback after an innings defeat in Leeds, when they take on England in the fourth Test at The Oval here on Wednesday. But it will last. The Indian batting line-up disappointed in both innings at Headingley after an inspiring victory at Lord’s.
The Test, to be held at the Oval, will be crucial as both the teams will look to take an unassailable lead in the series by winning it. Captain Virat Kohli had said that a victory at Lord’s did not ensure victory in the next Test and a loss at Headingley did not mean that the same story would be repeated at The Oval. The five-match series is currently tied at 1-1. The Indian captain knows that all is not well with his batting order and his biggest concern is the middle order which includes three greats like him, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane.
Pujara showed signs of a return to form with an impressive 91 in the second innings of the third Test at Leeds but Rahane, who scored 61 in the second innings at Lord’s, failed again. There is every possibility that Rahane will get another chance but his performance in the last two years has shown lack of consistency and the team has to bear the brunt.
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People are surprised that despite a century at Melbourne and a half-century at Lord’s, Rahane has not looked confident in the upcoming innings and does not seem to be returning to form. 95 runs at an average of 19 in five innings does not reflect Rahane’s ability and an aggressive batsman like Suryakumar Yadav or traditional players like Hanuma Vihari can innovate the middle order. If Rahane is dropped, Vihari is more likely to find a place in the team as he can bowl off-spin as well.
Captain Kohli, however, has shown that he stands by the team of his choice despite suggestions from India’s legendary cricketers, including Sunil Gavaskar. Gavaskar feels that feeding extra batsmen can help. Despite the failure of other batsmen apart from openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul (performing in the third Test), Kohli has maintained his decision to go with five bowlers.
Ravindra Jadeja has mainly played as a batsman in this series at number seven as he is a better batsman than Ashwin. Although Ashwin is probably the best spinner in the world at the moment, Jadeja has been able to take just two wickets in three matches. The Oval pitch has traditionally helped spinners and Ashwin, who took six wickets for Surrey in the county match against Somerset, could find a place in the team as he has troubled England’s batsmen in the past.
Kohli’s infatuation with four fast bowlers is well known. He may give a chance to Shardul Thakur, who played the role of an all-rounder, in place of Ishant Sharma, who failed to perform as expected. However, it remains to be seen whether Ashwin gets a chance in place of Jadeja. Jadeja’s bowling lacks edge.
Apart from this, the captain has also hinted about the workload on Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami. Both of them have bowled more than 100 overs in the series so far. If the middle-order’s performance is a matter of concern, then the form of rival skipper Joe Root is also taking a toll on Kohli, who has scored over 500 runs in three matches, including a hat-trick of hundreds. If Ashwin gets a chance, the match between him and Root could be memorable for the visitors.
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David Malan, who is returning to the Test format for England, looked in fine form at Headingley. The presence of Mark Wood and Chris Woakes will ease the workload of veteran pacer James Anderson. Jonny Bairstow is expected to take on the wicketkeeper’s role as Jos Buttler has taken a break to be with his wife who is expecting a second time. England however have enough resources to trouble India.
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Teams are as follows: India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Lokesh Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Prithvi Sau, Suryakumar Yadav and Shardul Thakur.
England: Joe Root (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, David Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Olly Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood. Timing: The match will be played from 3.30 pm Indian time.