England vs India 3rd Test Preview: Root & Co look to turn the tide against passionate India
Saqib Mahmood is all set to make his Test debut for England while India are expected to remain unchanged.
India in the driver's seat
Two Tests into the five-match series between England and India, and the visitors lead by 1-0. Although the manner of the Indian victory at Lord's in the last match was unanticipated, that India would have the top hand in the series was always expected.
Many believe that had the first Test match not been marred by rain, India would be leading the series 2-0 by now and that should not seem too surprising given the gulf in the quality of both teams.
England hamstrung by host of injuries
That said, all International teams pride themselves in putting in good performances in the absence of their leading players, but even the best of sides will be impacted by without so many top players.
England are particularly missing a host of their pace bowlers. Jofra Archer is out due to an elbow injury while Stuart Broad suffered a calf injury just before the second Test match. Olly Stone is suffering from a back injury while Chris Woakes has a bruised heel. Ben Stokes decided to opt out of the India series due to mental fatigue but his finger injury also played a role in the decision.
Mark Wood is currently nursing a shoulder injury which he suffered while fielding in the 2nd Test match. Although the England camp is hopeful of him making the XI in the absence of their other tearaway options, it will be a gamble if England decide to push Wood with the T20 World Cup coming up.
England's poor batting form of course does not help. They have now dropped both Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley from the squad. The team management instead has shown faith in the experienced Dawid Malan who played just one match in this year's County Championship but scored a handsome 199. Malan's experience will come in handy but his lack of practice with the red ball might prove to be a big hurdle in his path.
Ollie Pope is also back in the squad but it's difficult to see how he can make it to the XI with Jonny Bairstow looking quite composed at the crease. Pope's poorn run in the Royal London One-day Cup hasn't helped his case.
Saqib Mahmood to debut
In the bowling department, Sam Curran has been a weak link for England in the first two Test matches and Saqib Mahmood is likely to take his place. Mahmood can both swing and seam the ball which will present a different challenge for the Indian batters.
Mark Wood is expected to be fit in time for the Leeds Test but if something goes wrong, Mahmood will play in place of Wood. There is then a possibility of Craig Overton replacing Sam Curran.
Shardul or Ishant?
India, unlike England, do not have a lot of selection headaches. The only possible change in the Indian XI is the return of Shardul Thakur who missed the second Test due to a hamstring strain.
However, Ishant Sharma only improved as the last Test match moved forward and it will take a very logical reason to bench the pace bowler with more than 100 Test matches in his kitty.
No joy for Ashwin in cloudy Headingley
Ravichandran Ashwin was expected to play a major role in the series. However, given the record of pace bowlers at Leeds, he might have to wait a bit longer. The weather forecast for the five days does not help either.
The temperatures will mostly be under 20 while overhead conditions are expected to be partly cloudy throughout the Test match. Hence, India's combination of four pace bowlers and one spinner will stay intact.
Given what happened at Lord's, a bit of needle might continue between the two sides. It will be fascinating to see if the old workhorse Jimmy Anderson can go one up against the opposition or Bumrah and his pace bowling mates continue to have the last laugh. This, and more, will certainly make for some gripping action.
Predicted playing XIs:
England - Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, Saqib Mahmood, James Anderson
India - Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur/Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj
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