England at Headingley were brilliant and with a win have kept the series alive. What better venue than Oval for the 4th test, a batting friendly pitch that provides good assistance to spinners.
A lot would have been addressed in the Indian dressing room with focus on middle order and Rishabh Pant as India saw batting collapses in both innings of the 3rd test, England now have good momentum and will wish to carry the same.
India haven’t had bad opening partnerships but Rohit Sharma’s three figure wait continues and KL Rahul after a few silent outings will look for a big one, and will look to provide a good foundation. Middle order, Virat Kohli’s 55 and Pujara’s 91 in second innings of the 3rd test would have surely given them confidence. Questions are on Ajinkya Rahane as he’s yet to fire, he’s had starts but has failed to convert. He’s very likely to play and will have to contribute and score big, there’s Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari and Suryakumar Yadav waiting for an opportunity to grab. Rishabh Pant too has had strings of low scores and has never looked to play the waiting game, he’ll have to add a prize tag to his wicket and stick in with the tail.
Ashwin’s an experienced contender of bowling at Oval and is a sure swap with Ishant Sharma who’s looked completely off colour. There are doubts on Jadeja’s availability, he had scans after the 3rd test, a ball hit his knee during play on day 3. His unavailability open doors for Shardul Thakur to come in as a pace all-rounder else Jadeja on Oval with Ashwin can unsettle England a big way. India will stick to Bumrah, Shami and Siraj who haven’t failed to deliver but with work load can look to rest one and rope in Umesh Yadav or Shardul Thakur.
An outside change : India if look to replace Ajinkya Rahane then KL Rahul can be pushed in the middle order and Mayank Agarwal can be back to his opening duties and the same works if India look to play an extra batter opting to go a bowler short.
India add Prasidh Krishna to the test squad who was earlier part of the reserve list. Ishant Sharma’s looked off colour and with inclusion of Prasidh that’s a like to like replacement and if he’s adapted well with the dukes ball in nets he can serve India really well, is a skiddy customer with high release point and swings well upfront. His chances of playing the 4th test are only if Jadeja remains unavailable and if India rest one fast bowler and look ahead of Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav.
England name Moeen Ali as their vice captain for the fourth test with Jos Buttler’s unavailability.
English openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed after scoring big runs in Headingley will be high on confidence going into the Oval test which is a good wicket to bat on and will look to repeat Headingley. Middle order, Root who’s having a dream run will wish that runs continue to flow and see off the Indian spinners threat. A big positive for England was the way David Malan batted on return and will hope he continues to contribute the same way at that key position. Jos Buttler has opted out of the series and this is a blessing in disguise for England as Jos Buttler was short of runs and one of Sam Billings and Ollie Pope can fit in, Ollie Pope surely has the upper hand, he’s been around the team for quite a while, he’s played cameos and on a home ground return the drought of an impact innings can end. Sam Curran has had a poor run and with Chris Woakes availability the swap is on cards that will credit England a lot.
England’s strength has always been their bowling, James Anderson has come very well, Ollie Robinson is doing well in building the pressure and so has Craig Overton. Mark Wood is fit for the 4th test but there isn’t a need for a change and England will go with the same pace attack with maybe Sam Curran as the only change for a better option in Chris Woakes and if not, won’t be a big suprise as Curran has a lot of experience bowling at Oval it being his home turf.
Weather at Oval isn’t that promising, partly cloudy as one would expect any day in England. The main upset being day 4 could be a complete washout and day 5 might see a few overs cut down.
It surely was a hard to digest defeat for India but they’ve bounced back from such lows to real highs. England are heading with a lot of confidence but Ashwin will remain a huge threat and England yet haven’t been tested much with spin. Not too long for another cracker of a test, just a sleep away.