England v India
Thursday 2 September 11.00
TV: Live on Sky Sports
England to make changes?
Headingley’s seam and swing, for once, came to England’s aid. They are now level in a series that had the potential to cause constitutional crisis in the game with two to play. So why are they talking about three changes?
Jos Buttler’s absence is out of their control but both Chris Woakes and Mark Wood returning is a surprise. There are concerns that Ollie Robinson and James Anderson are beginning to tire and England may want to save their potent pair for Old Trafford. They need to deal with the here and now. Better to pick the best team at The Oval and worry about Manchester another time.
Wood has looked sharp in the nets and with Craig Overton impressing in Leeds, Sam Curran’s minimal contributions surely mean he sits out. Ollie Pope looks likely to slot in at No 5 with Bairstow taking the gloves. Dan Lawrence could have forced a rethink had he made big runs in the Championship but it was not to be.
Possible XI Burns, Hameed, Malan, Root, Pope, Bairstow, Moeen, C Overton, Robinson, Anderson, Wood
Unlike England, India need to make changes. Their balance has not been quite right since ball one and although it would be wrong to blame selection for their awful performance in game two, it is time to pick the right players.
Ravi Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari, a batting all-rounder, are in contention while there has also been talk of adding an extra batting option in the shape of Mayank Agarwal, who would open with Rohit Sharma and move KL Rahul down.
The likelihood is that India’s hand will be forced. Ravi Jadeja, whose bowling has been ineffective, has a knee niggle. Ashwin would be more than a like-for-like replacement given his superior bowling. If Vihari was to play, one from Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Siraj is vulnerable. Umesh Yadav could even play and both the latter pair miss out.
Skipper Virat Kohli is keen on four pace-bowling options in England but he must surely be flexible at The Oval, a spinning surface. That brings in the possibility of playing another spinner with Axar Patel an option.
Possible XI Rohit, Rahul, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Pant, Ashwin, Axar, Shami, Bumrah, Yadav
There has been only one draw in the last eight Tests at The Oval. It is a bat-first surface, as Tim Paine found out to his cost when sticking England in to chuck away a series Ashes win. Joe Root, after bowling out India for 78 and sparking a collapse of 43-6 in the second innings, needs to resist the temptation for another pop at India.
The surface has a reputation for big runs but that’s a 20 year-old bias. There were massive scores early in the 200s. More recently, only six of the last 12 first- and second- match innings have passed 350 or more. And it’s two in the last eight. Seam and swing is not be unexpected in the am. Beware prices of 8/13 that both sides bust 250 in the first dig. It’s an even money in the last ten.
India were beaten there in 2018 despite tons for Rahul and Rishabh Pant. The forecast is good with the possibility of showers on Saturday and Sunday.
India to get it right…eventually
England are 2.3211/8, the draw is 4.804/1 and India are 2.747/4. It is quite the turnaround. India looked by far the superior side post-Lord’s. Now their confidence has been hit.
But adversity suits them. Remember when they were rolled for 36 in Adelaide in 2020? They hit back to win the series. Leeds should focus the mind, chiefly on two problems to solve.
If they can work out how to get the best out of Kohli, whose slump in form is now officially alarming, and dismiss Joe Root relatively cheaply, then they should have little to worry about. The suspicion remains that England are a one-man team and without Root’s extraordinary sequence of runs it would be one-sided.
Perhaps Ashwin and expected spinning surfaces at The Oval and Old Trafford are the answer for India. With that in mind, laying England at 2.8615/8 for a series they are perhaps fortunate to still be in seems a gifthorse.
Taking a view of the entire series – rather than focussing on game three – should bring you to the conclusion that there’s been an overreaction and if you want a bet on the result in south London, India should be the choice.
Root is an even money chance for top England first-innings bat. He is the same price for a first-innings fifty. There’s no need to risk the former when the latter is a one-man wager. Dawid Malan, who looks the business, catches the eye at 11/2 for top bat. On win rate, Pope is a pick at 7s but we have to swerve because he’s had no red-ball preparation. Malan is 13/8 for a first-innings fifty.
For India, the 9/1 that Chet Pujara notches a ton in the first-innings looks good after he showed mettle in Leeds. On career form he’s more like a 9/2 chance.