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India v England: Fourth Test preview

It’s 2-1 to India, then. The last Test feels like a long time ago now, what with the final three-and-a-half days being surplus to requirements.

England will be desperate to bounce back; don’t think for one second that this game’s result is a foregone conclusion. India are favourites, sure. Their familiarity with these conditions makes them better-placed to perform on the pitch we’ll inevitably be served up, but they have frailties.

The hosts’ much-lauded batting line-up has, on the whole, failed to deliver. Only Rohit Sharma has stood out, and it could be argued that without the ‘hit man’, the past two games could have looked a tad different. Jack Leach has improved as the series has gone on, and we can expect another strong showing here, while the seamers have backed up the slower bowlers admirably in tough conditions.

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Some much-needed perspective

England fans were understandably disappointed with the team’s showing in the third Test. There’s no getting around that, and fans are entitled – even obligated – to react emotionally to their side’s performances.

But let’s be realistic; any side in world cricket would have found conditions in the previous two Tests difficult. Ollie Pope, Zak Crawley, and Ben Stokes were all made to look rather average at times against Axar and Ashwin, but they’re all very fine players. That’s not to say we shouldn’t expect improvements to be made and hopefully, we’ll see some in the series finale. It just puts things into context and explains, perhaps, how a promising start has turned into a tricky tour. The pitch for the first Test offered the side batting first a golden opportunity to get ahead. Since then, the home side has gone all-in on their superior ability against the turning ball. Who can blame them? It’s certainly worked.

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A green one at Lord’s, with clouds overhead and just the right atmospheric conditions, has consistently proven too much for touring sides in the past. Make no mistake: the conditions in the past two games have been far more extreme.

Regardless, England would surely have taken 2-2 at the start of the tour, and that outcome is still on the cards. Sure, that would put the Aussies into the World Test Championship final, but New Zealand are probably due a decent result at Lord’s. Let’s make it happen.

The playing XI

We could write whole articles on this subject, such is the nature of England’s recent selection history. We won’t because there’s already plenty out there for you to read to your heart’s content, but it’s very likely we’ll see some changes for the final match of the series.

The chances of India preparing anything other than a raging turner are next to non-existent (so maybe don’t bank on a weekend of early mornings), so a second front-line spinner is all but a necessity. Joe Root’s heroics in the first innings in Ahmedabad should make him more likely to bowl himself, but three seamers simply aren’t needed on these decks. Dom Bess’ recall would do plenty for the batting line-up, too, which looked a tad long in the tail last week.

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If England continue their rotation policy, we could well see one of two (or both, to be honest) new quicks enter the attack. Olly Stone impressed in the second Test, while Mark Wood has yet to feature on this tour. Perhaps two out-and-out speedsters is unlikely, but with Anderson, Broad, and Archer having played two already this series, it’s highly likely that the England management will elect to rest two out of the three who featured with the pink ball.

Possible playing XI: Sibley, Crawley, Bairstow, Root (c), Stokes, Pope, Foakes (wk), Bess, Archer, Leach, Wood

Prediction 

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It’s not going to be easy but doesn’t it just feel like England are going to bounce back here?

That’s what this side have proven they’re so, so good at and you wonder whether things might just click in the final game of the series.

We’re going for an England win to level things at 2-2 and deny India victory in a home series for the first since Sir Alastai Cook’s team came here and won nearly a decade ago.