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The fourth test of this wonderful test series between England and India lived up to expectations once again. It was a tightly fought match with both sides in it till the very last moments. Eventually, England’s all-round strength won it the day and the series 3-1. The fifth and the final test awaits us at the Oval with plenty of questions to ponder over for India. Alastair Cook has announced his retirement from international cricket and this will be his last match. With him bowing out, England’s search for top-order batsmen is only going to intensify.
Both sides have a lot to play for because a 3-2 scoreline is something the Indians would dearly love instead of a 4-1 scoreline that the English are going to be after.
A 3-1 scoreline may appear to be a little flattering for England but we think it is fair. The team has managed to come back from difficult positions and is able to win the crunch moments thanks to its tremendous depth of all-rounders. After the match-winning contributions from Moeen Ali and Sam Curran, England once again has to make a few tough choices with regards to the team selection.
Chris Woakes, man of the match in the Lord's test, and Ollie Pope are back in the thirteen named ahead of the final match. England has decided to stick with Cook and Jennings for the last test match so that is set in stone. Jennings batted relatively well for his 36 in the last inning so he should be in a better frame of mind while Cook is going to be very motivated to end on a high.
The question of batting at number three is a problem, though. Root moved down and allowed Moeen Ali to bat at three but Ali did not look comfortable at all. Does the team management backtrack from that decision after just one inning?
With Ali at three, Root at four, Bairstow at 5, Stokes at 6, and Buttler at 7 the batting lineup looks more in tune what the players prefer. This means, though, that Pope will continue to miss out. Sam Curran has surely done enough to retain his place in the team, and Chris Woakes should walk in as well if he is fully fit.
That means that England has batting up to number 9 followed by Broad and Anderson. In this scenario, Adil Rashid is relegated to being the backup spinner to Ali. This is the most likely team that we think England will go with unless the surface seems very conduce to spin.
Then, the same team as the last match is likely to take the field.
England has issues with the top-order but enough depth in the side to overcome any wobbles that they face. With the series won, they will be much more relaxed and confident of getting past a demoralized Indian team.
We would back Joe Root to get some runs in this game after the form he showed last time around, and for Jimmy Anderson to be the lead wicket-taker for England in this match too.
Alastair Cook, KK Jennings, Moeen Ali, JE Root, Jonny Bairstow, BA Stokes, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, AU Rashid, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
A battling India can hold its head high in the manner with which they have played this series, but the results are an indication of the work ahead. The team came found itself in winning positions thanks to some brilliant bowling and the sheer will of Virat Kohli but fell short.
Virat Kohli would be desperate to win this match and leave with a more respectable 3-2, a scoreline that would be fair. India also has itself to blame for some very poor selections in the series. The team management has opted to persist with Hardik Pandya, even when the conditions have indicated another spinner may be better.
Before the start of the last match, Virat Kohli said how he thought the pitch would take turn. Perhaps, he thought Ashwin would be enough to spin India to a win but one cannot help but wonder what Ravindra Jadeja would have achieved on this surface.
India has been one test too late in making the right selection choices. We think Jadeja is almost certain to play this match, whether in place of Ashwin or as the second spinner. The bowling has done its job and picked up wickets in every single match.
Bumrah, Ishant, and Shami have been brilliant at different times ensuring that the pressure is never taken off. Questions will be asked off Ravichandran Ashwin, though. He looked unfit in the last match and was outbowled comprehensively by Moeen Ali.
Ashwin bowled the wrong line, bowled too quick, and his performance can be seen as the difference between the two sides in Southampton.
India’s batting has now failed in three out of the four test matches they have played. Shikhar Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul have not performed anywhere near what was expected of them. Is there place for Prithvi Shaw in the final test? Perhaps not but surely the openers would be feeling nervous now.
Pujara, Kohli, and Rahane have done well with the Indian skipper being far above every other batsman in this series. He will relish the good batting surface at the Ova and we are backing him to score some big runs.
There is going to be no question asked about Kohli’s ability score runs in England after this test series is over.
While England bats till number 9, India’s batting ends at 5. Rishab Pant at 6 and Hardik Pandya at 7 have been sitting ducks. Both of them are aggressive batsmen with an impressive ability to score but their defense needs a lot of work. We think India could replace Pandya with a batsman as well in this match.
It is not often that India loses matches because of its batting but that has been the cause this series and in South Africa. India needs to find a couple of batsmen that are consistently capable of performing abroad otherwise the same results will keep on following them.
Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, V Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, H Vihari, RR Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, I Sharma, JJ Bumrah.
The team winning the toss is likely to bat first
Read our guide on toss predictions to learn how we analyze and come up with our tips.
A decent forecast is in place for the test. Some rain is predicted on Saturday but the rest of the days should be fine. The Oval is believed to be the best batting pitch in England generally. If the pitch stays true to its nature then we should see the bat dominate the ball like we have not so far.
The Dukes ball, though, has swung every single match even when the conditions seemed alien to it, so the batsmen are still going to be tested. The key is going to be to see off the new ball and then capitalize. Both teams may end up playing two spinners if the surface looks ragged.
England holds all the aces going into this game. It has yet to find its gear and there are some serious flaws with the England side but it still has enough in it to beat India. For the visitors to win this match, its batting will need to develop an extra gear. We don’t see that happening.
Back England to win.
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