India eye win in Cook’s swansong

The series scoreline reads 3-1 but it could have easily been 2-2 or 3-1 the other way round had Virat Kohli’s India not collapsed twice in the fourth innings during the 1st and the 4th Test. But come the 5th series, as per coach Ravi Shastri, his boys “won’t put the towel in” and aim to rectify their mistakes to end the series on a good note.

We take a look at the both the squads and what the combinations could be like in the final Test at The Oval.

From the Indian dressing room:

Forget the Indian openers, but none of the 5 openers from either side have been able to score a half-century in the ongoing Pataudi Trophy. With Prithvi Shaw warming the bench, India have an opportunity to make a bold move by dropping either Dhawan or Rahul and provide Shaw with his first Test cap.

India will be pleased with the way Cheteshwar Pujara played at Southampton. A Khadoos ton, going by the Mumbai diction saw him return to form with a lot of application which will be expected from the rest of the Indian batsmen as well.

Virat Kohli, with a staggering 544 runs in the series, has scored more than twice the number of runs than the batsman second on the charts, Jos Buttler (260). The batting run machine will be hoping to get runs under his belt once again before taking a break from cricket to give his back some ample rest.

Ajinkya Rahane’s return to making runs will bolster the side’s confidence but as defined by the coach in his pre-match press conference, he will be hoping for Rahane and Co. to bat through and complete games. More importantly, he will be hoping for Rahane to bail India out of this middle-order muddle.

Rishabh Pant’s uncharacteristic shot making in the fourth Test was criticised but that is the way he generally plays. The hard-hitting left-hander will be crucial to India’s chances considering the difference England’s lower order has made in the series. India also have Dinesh Karthik and Karun Nair on the bench.

Hardik Pandya was silent at Southampton but when the overhead conditions come into play, we all know what he can do with the ball. Pandya hasn’t had a great series with the bat and the right-hander will be willing to prove his mettle considering that a big Australian tour is just a few months away.

Reports suggest that Ravichandran Ashwin has picked up a groin injury which may allow Ravindra Jadeja to play his first Test of the tour. India’s pacers have been brilliant so far – Ishant, Bumrah and Shami have shown the capability to take all 20 wickets which is a big boon for any travelling side.

Jasprit Bumrah has been impressive since his return. He doesn’t give the batsmen a lot of freebies and keeps them busy by bowling lines which are very difficult to be left alone.

So Kohli is most likely to persist with the trio at The Oval too.

From the English dressing room:

With the series already in their pocket, England will want to give their highest Test run-getter, Alastair Cook a winning farewell in his last international match.

Joe Root has named the same XI with Jonny Bairstow returning behind the sticks.

Cook hasn’t been in the best of form but every fan of his will be hoping for him to notch a classic daddy hundred at The Oval in his last outing.

His opening partner Keaton Jennings has a lot at stake. The left-hander hasn’t been among runs but will see this as an opportunity to repay the faith instilled by the selectors in him.

Joe Root looked in fine touch during his 48-run stay in the second innings at Southampton. He will aim to carry the momentum and get a big score which has eluded him in the Tests.

Bairstow, Stokes and Buttler combine for a formidable middle order with a very potent Moeen Ali to follow. The hosts tried experimenting with his position in the second innings and his batting position still remains a mystery.

England’s wild card in this series Sam Curran will hold the key. India will have to find a way to get rid of him as early as possible.

Adil Rashid’s leg-breaks will give company to Ali’s off-breaks which have caused enough trouble for the Indians.

Talking about the English pacers, James Anderson is just five wickets shy of becoming the greatest pacer in the longest format, leapfrogging Glenn McGrath’s 564 wicket tally. England have enough variation with the right arm pace of Stuart Broad and the clingy, incoming left-arm pace of Sam Curran.

The final Test will start on September 7 at The Oval in South London.