England vs India 5th Test Preview: Will Kohli ditch winning template at spinning Old Trafford?
While Mark Wood, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali are set to play for England, India will have to choose between Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh Yadav.
An absolute humdinger
Test cricket just continues to give. What a series this is turning out to be. There has been one humdinger after another with the fortunes swinging over the course of the four matches.
India were on the brink of a historic victory at Trent Bridge in the series opener but rain played spoilsport. India did achieve that at the home of cricket, beating England by 151 runs courtesy of a sensational rearguard action by Mohd Shami and Jasprit Bumrah.
The visitors were then thoroughly trounced in the 3rd Test match at Leeds, losing by an innings and 76 runs. When India were bowled out for a below par total at The Oval in the fourth Test match, a repeat looked likely.
However, first Shardul Thakur's fastest half century on English soil in red ball cricket ensured that India remained in the game. Then, some disciplined bowling and determined batting gave them a healthy lead of over 350 and England duly obliged by folding up quickly on the last day.
With India having taken a 2-1 lead, they can not lose the series, but England can still salvage something by ensuring that they do not lose the series, just like it happened in Ashes 2019 when they managed to win the last Test.
Buttler to replace Bairstow
A lot depends on the surface at the Old Trafford. It has been quite obvious in the series till now that when the ball is hooping around, England are not only in the game but perhaps the favorites, but as soon as the conditions go flat or their flaky batting order is put under pressure, they crumble.
The Old Trafford has a history of aiding spinners. But, England might try their best to leave some live grass on the surface and take a punt with the toss. This will again spark debate around the playing XIs of the two sides.
Joe Root has all but confirmed that both Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali will be a part of the playing XI. While Buttler is returning from paternity leave and is all set to replace Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali will play head of Jack Leach.
With Buttler coming back, England are left with the option of picking between Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler. And, with Pope being their best batsman at The Oval, the decision is quite a simple one.
Wood back, no Leach
In the case of Jack Leach, he can get an opportunity if England choose to go in with two spinners, but that is highly unlikely despite there being assistance from the surface.
England have not shown enough faith in their spinners and perhaps Joe Root is more comfortable attacking with his pacers, a strategy that makes a lot of sense against this Indian batting lineup.
While Mark Wood is all set to return, one of James Anderson or Ollie Robinson is expected to make the cut due to their workload.
One last chance for Rahane?
India will resist the possibility of replacing Ajinkya Rahane with either Suryakumar Yadav or Hanuma Vihari. They might give him one more opportunity and take a call on his career after the end of the series.
Jasprit Bumrah has been pushed to the limit with regards to his workload, but knowing the pace bowler, he will not shy away from one last push. Mohammed Shami was rested for the last game due to a niggle and is set to return. Mohammed Siraj is likely to be benched.
Ashwin or Umesh?
With both Ravindra Jadeja and Shardul Thakur expected to retain their places, Ravichandran Ashwin can only play in place of Umesh Yadav, who himself is a completely different bowler with some reverse swing on offer which is more than likely at the Old Trafford. Don't be surprised then if Ashwin has to warm the bench in the last match as well.
An unlikely but feasible option would be to replace Jadeja with Ashwin as Thakur has shown that he can add a few runs to the total. Whatever the call, expect another closely fought encounter.
Predicted playing XIs:
England - Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Mark Wood, James Anderson/Ollie Robinson
India - Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Ravichandran Ashwin/Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
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