All to play for at Southampton

It happened in Kolkata against South Africa in 2010, Galle against Sri Lanka in 2015 and now, in Trent Bridge against England. Nottingham was the third instance in the last 8 years of India bouncing back in a Test series after suffering an innings defeat in the previous Test.

The visitors kept their hopes alive in the 5-match Test series with a clinical performance and would be in high spirits as the battle moves to Southampton, which is known for being a high-scoring ground. Here’s an analysis of both the squads, ahead of this crunch encounter.

From the Indian dressing room

Skipper Virat Kohli would be a happy man after the team’s phenomenal outing in Nottingham. After being thrashed at Lord’s, it was a commendable effort by the visitors, who were the better team in all three departments.

There were a lot of positives to take for India from the previous Test. Jasprit Bumrah’s arrival has added a different dimension to the Indian bowling attack which looked more lethal and complete in the previous Test. The skipper trusted Bumrah with the new ball in both the innings and the 24-year-old repaid the faith by clinching a 5-fer in the second innings. He, Ishant Sharma who has 11 wickets in the series so far, and Mohammed Shami are expected to do the bulk of work in Southampton too.

Hardik Pandya’s all-round abilities came to the fore as his fierce spell in the first innings set up the game perfectly and his half-century proved the naysayers wrong, as he won all the accolades and deservedly so.

The Indian openers, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan, were much better in the Third Test and added 60 runs for the first wicket in both innings. More importantly, they played the swinging deliveries with much more confidence and gave themselves time to settle down. They’d be hoping to convert their starts into substantial knocks in the upcoming Tests.

With the inclusion of Hanuma Vihari and Prithvi Shaw in the squad, Kohli has more options in the middle order but it is unlikely that India will make any changes to the batting order, who finally lived up to its reputation at Nottingham.While Kohli continued to churn runs and scored 200 runs in the match, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara played vital knocks in first and second innings respectively.
Rishabh Pant, who replaced Dinesh Karthik behind the sticks, managed to impress on his debut and is likely to retain his place in the eleven.

The only worrying part for the skipper would be Ravi Ashwin’s injury. The off-spinner bowled just one over in the first innings and didn’t look fully fit when he came out to bowl in the second innings. It would be interesting to see whether Ravindra Jadeja gets a nod from his captain for this all-important Test.

From the English dressing room

After the heroics at Lord’s, the hosts wouldn’t have expected India to bounce back so quickly but the good thing for them is they are still leading 2-1 in the 5-match Test series. They’ve made a few tactical changes to the line-up and only time will tell how effective these changes turn out to be.

England’s top-order woes remain a cause of concern for skipper Joe Root, who himself, hasn’t played a substantial knock since his 1st innings score of 80 at Edgbaston. While Alastair Cook has been kept quiet, Keaton Jennings has disappointed with the bat and in the field, by dropping crucial catches. But England have still shown faith in their opening pair and it is about time that they perform in the series, especially Cook.

England’s lower middle order has scored the bulk of the runs in the series with Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes, all amongst the runs at some point in the series. The inclusion of Sam Curran, who has troubled India with both bat and ball in the first two Tests, can act as a blessing in disguise for the English skipper. It will also be interesting to see how Jos Buttler performs behind the stumps.

What comes as a surprise though is the selection of Moeen Ali who replaces Ollie Pope in the playing eleven and is all set to play his first Test of the summer. The wily off-spinner bamboozled India when they played at the Rose Bowl in 2014 and picked up 8 wickets in that match. The southpaw is a handy batsman too and is expected to play his role with the willow.

The onus will once again be on England’s partners-in-crime with the Duke ball – James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who have taken 27 wickets between them in the 3 completed matches and will look to add more to the tally.

Woakes, Stokes and Curran have provided ample support to them, but all eyes will be on Adil Rashid, who the Indians have played pretty comfortably.

Joe Root was a part of the English team who defeated India by 266 runs in their face-off at the Rose Bowl in 2014 and the English skipper would be hoping for a repeat of that performance when they take the field on Thursday. The England management though would be wary of the fact that this is a different Indian unit and one who have given them a tough fight in the Test series.

 

 


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