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Preview: India vs England Fourth Test At The Oval

India’s tour of England moves to the Oval in London on Thursday as both sides are looking to make much-needed changes ahead of the fourth Test of the ongoing series. A remarkable team effort from Joe Root’s men saw them humble India in the third Test, giving English fans a reason for hope ahead of the last two Tests. For India, a batting collapse in the first innings will be a cause for worry, and they have much to think about in terms of team selection ahead of the fixture. 

With the series evenly poised at 1-1, here’s our preview of the fourth Test between India and England:

ENGLAND’S RESURGENCE

After being written off after their humiliating defeat at the Lord’s in the second Test, Joe Root’s men have shown remarkable humility in making a comeback. Speaking after the Lord’s Test, in which there were incidents of aggression from both sides, Joe Root admitted to underestimating the Indian team and making tactical blunders on the field. The focus in the next Test, he promised, would be squarely on cricket. The team seems to have fallen in line with the skipper’s words, as the on-field comments in the third Test were relatively subdued. Instead, the team concentrated on delivering results – especially in the first innings when a disciplined pace outfit crumbled the Indian batting order. 

England had two major issues heading into the second Test – the need for batsmen to stick around Joe Root, and for bowlers to support James Anderson. The two veterans have done much of the heavy lifting for the team in the past few months, and the team’s fortunes depended on their individual performances rather than on team effort. At Headingley, however, the team rallied in both departments. Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed and Dawid Malan made the fifties at the top, and England are likely to retain the trio for the remaining two Tests. 

It is in the bowling department that England have made most gains, with Ollie Robinson and Craig Overton filling up the void left by the absence of Stuart Broad. Ollie Robinson has been particularly effective when James Anderson is having a lean patch, and Joe Root now has a viable alternative to rest the veteran when needed. England’s fielding has also shown an improvement, and good catching has made a substantial impact on the second Test.

The fourth Test will see Chris Woakes replace Jos Buttler as the latter is unavailable due to personal issues. Woakes was England’s player of the year in 2020, and his return after more than a year’s absence in Test cricket will give a big boost to the team. England might decide to drop Sam Curran or Moeen Ali to give space to Ollie Pope or Dan Lawrence, given the need for sufficient batting depth. 

WHAT AILS INDIA’S CONSISTENCY?

For India, the progress of the series brings back memories of the 2014 tour when MS Dhoni’s men registered a memorable victory at Lord’s, only to be outclassed by England in the remaining three Tests. Their nemesis then, like today, was Joe Root – and India don’t seem to have an answer to stop the English skipper in the peak of his career. Indian bowlers have been rightly praised for finally giving India the ability to win fixtures abroad, but they failed to shine in the third Test when India needed them the most.

But India’s main problem lies in the batting lineup, with almost all of India’s batsmen suffering from inconsistency. Rohit Sharma has mastered the ability to fight off the new ball, but the prolific run-scorer in limited-overs cricket is yet to register a century in this series. KL Rahul is India’s top scorer in the series but has failed to cross double-digits at Headingley. Cheteshwar Pujara has been a revelation for India, answering his critics with a superb 91, but apart from Virat Kohli, no other batsmen managed to perform well.

One of India’s main issues at the moment is the lean patch that India’s most talented batsman is going through. Virat Kohli is now without a century for a little less than two years, and calls are growing for a change of technique from the skipper. India’s aggressive tours of the world have been led from the front by Kohli, and India desperately need him to get back to form. Rishabh Pant, whose heroics have been much lauded in Australia, is also in much need of a correction in technique. 

After dropping Ravichandran Ashwin for the first three Tests of the series, it might be the time for the veteran’s return to the team, especially as the spinner has experience on the Oval pitch due to his stint in county cricket. Ishant Sharma is the most probable omission, with Ravindra Jadeja’s batting skills still needed for the team. The other major choice for Virat Kohli will be about deciding vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, but he is most likely to be included in the playing XI.

MATCH PREDICTION

India’s overseas tours are a recipe for unpredictability, with the team regularly reaching the highest of the highs and lowest of the lows within the same series. After a remarkable team effort by India at Lord’s, it was England’s turn to dominate at Headingley. With both teams still needing to figure out their batting woes lower down the order, the fixture can go either way. Joe Root and James Anderson remain the main obstacles in the path of Virat Kohli’s men, and coming up with a strategy to deal with the two will determine the outcome in the next Test.

Expect a tightly-contested fixture with the result going either way.

Pitch Report: The Oval generally offers flat pitches – in the last ten years, Kennington Oval has had the highest batting average among the traditional five venues in England. If that is the case, both teams can afford to drop a bowler and bring in an all-rounder to give the teams some more batting depth. 

India Predicted XI: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami

England Predicted XI: Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (C), Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Ollie Robinson, Craig Overton, James Anderson.

When: September 2-7, 2021 (Thursday to Monday) 3:30 PM IST

Where: Kennington Oval, London

Where to Watch: All matches of the series will be telecast live on Sony Six and SonyLiv.

 

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