England vs India 4th Test Preview: Team changes aplenty with series delicately poised at 1-1
While Ravichandran Ashwin, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood will be back, James Anderson or Ollie Robinson and Jasprit Bumrah or Mohammed Shami will have to be rested.
Cricket is a great leveller. The saying might be a cliche but is true nonetheless.
After the highs of Lord's, India had to endure the lows of Headingley. On the contrary, England are looking a much more settled unit now than they were after the completion of the second Test match.
The focus of both teams as they go into the fourth Test at The Oval tied at 1-1 and with all three results still possible will be on team selection. With a turnaround of just four days between the 3rd and the 4th Test and anticipated batting-friendly conditions, both teams would be looking to make a couple of changes to their playing XI.
It came as pleasant news for England that both the incoming batsmen in the 3rd Test match, Haseeb Hameed and Dawid Malan scored attractive half-centuries and England's top four is now looking much more settled.
Buttler away on paternity leave
Jos Buttler will miss this Test match due to the impending birth of his second child which will open the door for Ollie Pope who has now recovered from injury. Dan Lawrence is another batter in the England squad.
Jonny Bairstow is expected to bat at number 6 and don the wicket keeping gloves. Chris Woakes, after recovering from his heel injury, has also been added to the squad and is expected to make the playing XI straight away.
Wood, Woakes return; Anderson or Robinson to rest
Mark Wood has also recovered from his shoulder injury and will be a part of the playing XI. England will then have to pick two out of Sam Curran, Craig Overton, James Anderson and Ollie Robinson.
While they will not lose much with the bat or ball without either Curran or Overton, Root & Co will certainly have to think long and hard on the selection of James Anderson or Ollie Robinson. Anderson has bowled 116.3 overs in the series while Robinson has bowled 116.5. Clearly, there isn't anything in the numbers to choose from.
Given Anderson's age, his significance in the England side and an injury scare before the Lord's Test match, he might be the one to miss out.
England have not added Jack Leach to their squad which reveals the direction in which the English team management wants to go. That direction will be different for India who have no choice but to introduce Ravichandran Ashwin into the series in place of Ishant Sharma.
Ravindra Jadeja, who was cleared of any substantial injury in the scans, might retain his place as well.
Rahane's last chance saloon
Despite a collapse at Headingley, India are not expected to fiddle with their batting line-up. They do have the options of Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari if they want to play with six specialist batsmen or drop vice captain Ajinkya Rahane, but it seems too drastic a move at the moment.
Both KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant, who scored centuries the last time India played a Test at The Oval in 2018, will have happy memories of the ground and some batting friendly conditions might encourage them, and their mates, further.
Bumrah might rest, Shardul or Umesh to play
All three of Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj have already bowled around 100 overs in the series and with the last three Test matches packed close to each other, one of Shami or Bumrah is expected to get a break.
This might present Shardul Thakur with another opportunity. Thakur did his job well in the opening Test, however, if not for his batting (in)ability, Umesh Yadav is definitely a better Test bowler than Thakur and could pip the Mumbai bowler to claim a spot in the XI.
Predicted playing XIs:
England - Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran/Craig Overton, Mark Wood, James Anderson/Ollie Robinson
India - Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur/Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami/Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj
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