Cricket fans are in for a compelling contest in the fourth Test between England and India.
The Test gets underway at Southampton on Thursday as India look to draw level in the five-match series, while England will be hoping to seal the series victory ahead of the final Test match (England leading 2-1). The series has been a compelling watch throughout with both teams having plenty of motivation (and plenty to prove) going into the fourth Test, writes Anitha Madikizela.
The English build-up
The series started with a bang as the two teams faced off in Birmingham. England narrowly claimed victory by 31 runs off the back of a brilliant bowling attack that saw young Sam Curran impress in the first innings, and Ben Stokes rip through India’s middle order in the second, for each to claim four wickets in the respective innings.
The second Test at Lord’s proved to be a one-sided affair, with India’s batting order disappointing in both innings. After the first day was rained out, England cruised to victory within four days through Chris Woakes (who replaced Stokes while he was in the midst of a legal battle) starring with the bat and ball. Woakes was in brilliant form as he scored his maiden Test century and picked up four wickets at the Home of Cricket, his 137 not out (177 balls) helped England secure a massive victory by an innings and 159 runs as well as earning him the Man of the Match award.
With England seemingly in control (leading the series 2-0), the third Test at Trent Bridge was the first of their opportunities to seal a series victory. Their selectors faced a dilemma since Stokes was once again available (after being found innocent by a Bristol jury), Woakes was undroppable, while Curran staked his claim after bowling well in both matches.
England’s embarrassment of riches in the bowling department meant that Curran was the one who was ultimately sacrificed, although many questioned the decision to reinstate Stokes. This proved to be a major talking point after India defeated England and will be one of the major stories to look out for ahead of the fourth Test at Southampton. India would probably have won the third Test whether Stokes or Curran played, but there’s a general feeling that the result was poetic justice for the English after dropping the young talent for the controversial senior bowler.
It will be interesting to see the changes England make (if any) with all the speculation over the Curran/Stokes call, while Jonny Bairstow’s fitness after picking up an injury on his hand at Trent Bridge will be closely watched by the pundits.
The Indian build-up
Kohli, Kohli and more Kohli. He’s a global superstar and seems to always be in the headlines no matter who or where India play. The man nicknamed ‘King Kohli’ has been majestic for India with his table-topping 440 runs in the series so far. His dominance is evident when you compare his tally to Bairstow’s 206 runs (the man second on the runs list), who has scored less than half of Kohli’s tally.
Kohli has been the only shining star in an Indian batting order that struggled throughout the series against the seaming Dukes ball. Even in the devastating losses of the first and seconds Tests, his passion and intensity never seem to be dampened as he’s always looking to lead India to victory.
If India plan on leveling the series, however, they’ll have to look beyond Kohli ― and the top order will need to make a bigger impact in the remaining fixtures. A lot of questions were posed to the Indian batting order but they showed signs of improvement in the third Test at Trent bridge, securing a 203-run victory that helped them cut the series deficit to 1-2.
Looking ahead to the fourth Test, popular opinion predicts that the changes to the line-up for Trent Bridge (Shikhar Dhawan in for Murali Vijay, Rishabh Pant in for Dinesh Karthik, as well as Jasprit Bumrah for Kuldeep Yadav) will be kept for the Southampton Test as the team hope they will have to do it again in the hopes of levelling the series ahead of the final test.
The whole picture
This series has ebbed and flowed throughout. It’s hard to make any predictions due to a volatile batting display from both sides. The general consensus is that both bowling attacks are formidable and can worry the opposition on a regular basis, but question marks linger over both batting orders, with both still seeking solutions to their top-order woes. England is still trying to figure out where to play Ollie Pope while India are simply far too reliant on Kohli’s form.
At the end of the day, this compelling series will come down to which batting unit will click first and be daring enough to take the attack to the opposition bowling attack. A dangerous gamble considering (apart from Kohli) the bowlers have been the main attraction throughout the series so far.
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