Amid a COVID scare, India are leading the 5-match LV Insurance Test Series 2-1 after the historic win over hosts England at The Oval by 157 runs. The visitors have also moved to the top of the World Test Championship (WTC) table after this victory.
India aim fourth series victory in England, first since 2007
India would be looking to finish the series on a high by winning the last and the final Test match of the series that will be played at Old Trafford, Manchester. If India win this series it would be their first Test series win since 2007 on English soil.
Previously, India won a Test series under Ajit Wadekar in 1971, under Kapil Dev in 1986, drawn the series under Sourav Ganguly in 2002 and won under Rahul Dravid in 2007.
Jos Buttler makes return to England squad
Going into the fifth and final Test of the series, both teams will look to make some changes in their squad to balance their respective teams. England have included Jos Buttler, Jack Leach and Mark Wood again in their squads for the last match of the LV Insurance series.
Jos Buttler missed the fourth Test at The Oval due to the birth of his second child. On his return to the Test squad, England would be thinking of leaving out either Jonny Bairstow who kept gloves in the fourth Test or Ollie Pope who was included in the squad for the fourth Test.
"Jos is the vice-captain of the team," Root said ahead of England's training session at Old Trafford on Wednesday. "He is integral to what we are about. I know his output, in terms of runs, hasn't been as high as he would have liked, but we know what a great player he is. Jos will be back as vice-captain and he will keep wickets,” said Joe Root before the Old Trafford Test.
Root backs Moeen Ali to be part of squad
Moeen Ali had a very disappointing last game at The Oval, London. But Joe Root has confirmed that he will retain his place for the final Test.
“Moeen Ali is our first spinner. I've not seen the pitch yet, but it can spin at Old Trafford and the option of two spinners is something we have to look at," the England captain said.
Joe Root further hinted that Jack Leach may get a game at Old Trafford.
"Jack has done some fine things for England. We all know what he is capable of and we know he is a fine player. I'm sure Jack will be desperate to take the opportunity," said Root on playing two spinners at the Old Trafford, Manchester.
Joe Root was unable to confirm whether James Anderson or Ollie Robinson will rest for the final Test. Both the pacers looked weary at The Oval, having bowled a high volume of overs in the series to date.
England Probable XI: Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (C), Jonny Bairstow/Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (WK), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, James Anderson
Hanuma Vihari Likely Replacement of Ajinkya Rahane
For India, the team should remain more or less the same as the fourth Test except for the few changes. The India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane has been struggling with this form for the entire tour. He might be rested as he has scored only 109 runs in seven innings at an average of 15.57. In terms of batting averages, only Mohammed Siraj is below him while the rest of the Indian batsmen are well above him. Hanuma Vihari is a very likely replacement to Ajinkya Rahane.
Mohammed Shami is fit and fully prepared to comeback in the squad for The Oval Test after recovering from injury. Mohammed Siraj is likely to make a way for Mohammed Shami in the playing XI.
Umesh Yadav did very well in the last game for India so, he is likely to retain his place. Also, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Puajra who didn't take field on Day 5 of the Oval Test are declared fit ahead of the fifth and final Test of the tour.
However, there are speculations over Jasprit Bumrah's inclusion in the fifth Test. He might be given rest considering his workload and IPL 2021 and T20 World Cup to follow. Hope India play the best playing XI in the fifth and final game of the tour and Bumrah remains part of it. How could he be sidelined after producing a memorable spell at The Oval?
India Probable XI: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ravindra Jadeja, Ajinkya Rahane/Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (WK), Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami/Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah
Fans would be low on spirits as the weather is expected to be wet on all the days of the Old Trafford Test with the possible exception of day 3. However, precipitation levels are expected to be hovering around the 50 per cent mark thereby reducing the chance of a washout. The temperatures are expected to be between 12 to 21 degrees Celsius. Pitches at Old Trafford have always been hard and bouncy. Also, it is known that Manchester has one of the fastest pitches in England. Considering this is end of the season, pitch might be more on the slower side and weary to an extent.
The series is nicely poised to have multiple outcomes like 2-1, 2-2 or 3-1 in India's favour. It would be fantastic to see how do both the teams play in the fifth and final Test of the tour. The match will mark the end of a three-month long India tour of England 2021 which commenced with the WTC Final against New Zealand in June at Rose Bowl in Southampton.
Match likely to push back
The Old Trafford Test between India and England will likely not begin on Friday as per the scheduled timing. Final decision on when and whether match will begin is yet to be taken. It has been understood as per a report by ESPNCricinfo that BCCI and ECB are in intense discussions after India's assistant physiotherapist Yogesh Parmar tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.
More than one India player have raised concerns about taking the field on Friday. They have been in touch with the BCCI administration about this development over the last two days.
The entire India squad tested negative last night and the results of fresh testing is awaited on Friday morning.