India head to Old Trafford with a 2-1 series lead as the deciding Test in Manchester could see the tourists securing their first series win in England since 2007. Only Jimmy Anderson survives from the teams that played 14 years ago and success on English soil has been a long-stated mission of Virat Kohli’s tenure as India captain.
After England’s near faultless innings and 76 run win at Headingley, India bounced back to secure victory at The Oval by 157 runs, with Rohit Sharma named Man of the Match for his second innings 127 (tipped up here last week at 12/1). The tourists were behind in the match on more than one occasion and showed tremendous resilience to battle back.
This has been a tremendous series so far, ebbing and flowing throughout, so nothing is guaranteed in the fifth Test which begins on Friday. It would however be safe to predict plenty more drama.
The Venue: Previous England v India Tests at Old Trafford
There have been nine Tests played between the two sides at Old Trafford with India yet to win on the ground. The teams first met in Manchester in 1936 and that game ended as one of the five drawn Tests at the venue with England winning the other four matches.
The average total on the ground is 308.7 in 82 Tests played and England have won 31 (37.80%) and there have been 35 draws (42.68%). The highest successful fourth innings chase was 294 for four when England beat New Zealand in 2008.
Last Match: 4th Test at Old Trafford – 7-11 August 2014 (only lasted three days)
India 152 (MS Dhoni 71, R Ashwin 40, S Broad 6/25, J Anderson 3/46)
England 367 (J Root 77, J Buttler 70, I Bell 58, B Kumar 3/75)
India 161 (R Ashwin 46*, M Ali 4/39)
England won by an innings and 54 runs.
India deservedly ahead in the series
England cannot have too many complaints at 2-1 down. Other than a dominant Headingley display, the other Tests have boiled down to key sessions where India have found a way to come out on top. That is what a quality Test side does – wins the key moments.
Ahead of the series, a man-for-man comparison of the two teams would see India the favourites, but the English conditions were potentially a leveller. England needed batsmen to consistently score runs, other than Joe Root, and for their pace attack to out bowl their opposite numbers.
Root has scored 564 runs with three centuries at an average of 94.00 with the next best batsman in the series, India’s Rohit Sharma on 368 runs at 52.57. The second-best Englishman is Jonny Bairstow with 184 runs at 26.28 and that shows why England have failed to bat themselves out of trouble. Dawid Malan, Ollie Pope and Haseeb Hameed have done okay since their introductions. If England, currently 4th in the ICC Rankings, are to break into the world’s top three Test playing sides, they need more tenacity, consistency and hunger from the top order.
England have done well to match India for huge chunks of the Tests at Lord’s and The Oval, but India found a way. And in the 4th Test a seam attack of Jimmy Anderson, Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson and Craig Overton offered very similar attributes on a surface that did not play to their strengths.
Anderson and Robinson looked tired, Overton is lacking a plan B in unhelpful conditions and Moeen Ali provided his skipper with precious little control with his off-spin. The bright spark was the returning Woakes, who has played next to no cricket in the last year. The Warwickshire all-rounder fitted into the team like he’d never been away and was consistently the pick of the attack and caught the eye with a fifty in England’s first innings.
The other factor not assisting England is their slip fielding. Catches are going down regularly. Against tough opponents, offering second chances is obvious folly.
India looking to write their own history
Kohli takes his team to Manchester as he seeks to put a big tick against one of the prominent items on his to-do list when he became Indian captain in 2014. To win in England has eluded the modern India Test side and a draw or better in the 5th Test will further underline Kohli’s credentials as India’s best skipper of all time.
Virat has demanded high standards of attitude, fielding and fitness. Much of the team’s current success is down to his appreciation of the complexities of Test cricket and a single-minded desire to win.
At The Oval, Kohli became the first India captain to lead the country in ten or more Tests away from home. Earlier this year, Kohli surpassed the record of MS Dhoni to lead India in more Tests than any other captain. He has now captained India in 65 Tests as opposed to Dhoni’s 60. The win in south London saw Kohli become only the second India captain after Kapil Dev to register two Test wins in a series in England.
England skipper Joe Root must watch with envy as the 6captains’ series go in contrary directions. Root is outscoring his opposite number by 346 runs, but Kohli has team around him with a burning desire to write their names in Indian cricket folklore and it seems likely it will be Kohli smiling as he boards the plane home.
ENGLAND’S LIKELY XI
Jos Buttler welcomed the birth of his second child during the fourth Test and is thought to be available to return to action. Both Jimmy Anderson and Ollie Robinson have played all four Tests so far and looked tired, whereas Overton appeared highly unthreatening. There is the potential for England to play two spinners, which might assist Moeen for whom the tag of first spinner has never rested easily on his shoulders. And the rumour is that Jimmy Anderson may get a well earned rest.
Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson, Jack Leach, Mark Wood.
INDIA’S LIKELY XI
The temptation not to tinker with a winning side may be taken out of India’s hands. Mohammad Shami could return after recovering from a niggle and there are fitness doubts over Rohit Sharma and Chesteshwar Pujara who sat out England’s second innings. Rohit should recover, but Pujara turned his ankle when batting and is more of a concern. Hanuma Viharir, Mayank Agarwal and Suryakumar Yadav are the batsmen waiting in the wings. Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane is woefully short of form but may get a stay of execution. R Ashwin, the world’s current no.1 spinner may finally get his chance at Old Trafford if the pitch is spin friendly with Mohammad Siraj potentially making way.
Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara or Mayank Agarwal, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane or Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.
THE THREE BEST BETS FOR THE FIFTH TEST AT OLD TRAFFORD
- The Draw @ 15/8 with Betfair
With a draw good enough for India to take the series and some poor weather forecast for Old Trafford, the draw looks a decent bet as the curtain falls on England’s international summer.
- Joe Root to be Top England Batsman @ 6/4 with Bet365
It may not have landed in the fourth Test but playing Root to top score remains the wise play over the last year. He is head and shoulders above anyone else on the series with the bat.
- Virat Kohli top scorer for India @ 5/2 with Bet365 / Man of the Match @ 7/1 with Bet365
It hasn’t been vintage Virat over the last few weeks, but there were definite signs that his form was returning at The Oval and, as a big match performer, he will recognise the importance of a captains innings as his team look to tighten their grip on the series.