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England vs India, 3rd Test at Southampton Preview: Visitors eye consolidation

England would be hurting after that 95-run loss to India at Lord's © Getty Images
England would be hurting after that 95-run loss to India at Lord’s © Getty Images

By Shiamak Unwalla

Jul 26, 2014

After being rocked by Ishant Sharma’s seven-wicket burst on Day Five of the second Test at Lord’s, England would be licking their wounds, while India revel in the afterglow of arguably their greatest overseas victory in recent times.

However, the victory is now a thing of the past. India must guard against complacency and an English attack that is sure to dish out some short stuff of their own. The form of Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli remains a concern, while Cheteshwar Pujara‘s has got some good starts, but hasn’t converted them into the big ones he normally does.

On the bowling front, Mohammed Shami could do with some more consistency, and Ravindra Jadeja with some more penetration. Stuart Binny’s role remains a mystery to all but the Indian think-tank, and unless MS Dhoni plans to utilise him better, he could be replaced by Ravichandran Ashwin at Southampton.

However, despite all of this, India looks a settled, calm and supremely confident side. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been a revelation with both bat and ball. Murali Vijay has cemented his place at the top of India’s order. And Dhoni’s captaincy, which has been the subject of much criticism in overseas conditions, has been refreshingly aggressive.

On the other hand, England look like a side that is severely jaded. Much like India in 2011, they appear downcast and defeated. Their two best batsmen — Alastair Cook and Ian Bell — have been struggling for runs. Of the new crop of players, only Joe Root and Gary Ballance look like the ones who would be able to score big runs.

Jos Buttler brings in a refreshing change after Matt Prior withdrew due to injury. However, Buttler has the reputation of a big hitter, and whether he will be able to survive the rigors of the longest format of the game remains to be seen.

England’s bowlers have looked very good in patches, but have yet to fire as a pack, as was the case in India’s 4-0 drubbing in 2011. The lack of a decent spinner is telling, with batsmen tending to get themselves out against Moeen Ali rather than him getting them out. Simon Kerrigan is an alternative for them, but it is unlikely that he will be picked.

The pitch at the Aegas Bowl, Southampton, is likely to be another green top. However, that prospect might not delight the English quite as much as it did previously. The final pitch conditions the game will be played on could still change by the time of the Toss, and it would be interesting to see how, and if, it changes.

With the Pushgate controversy seemingly out of the way, the focus will get back to cricket. Overall, India are the side that looks much more likely to win, but in English conditions, it would be foolish to write off the hosts. Either way, it promises to be an engaging contest between two young sides.

Squads:

India: MS Dhoni (c&wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Gautam Gambhir, Varun Aaron, Pankaj Singh, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishwar Pandey, Stuart Binny, Mohammed Shami.

England: Alastair Cook (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Robson, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Simon Kerrigan.

Time: 10:00 GMT I 15: 30 IST

Catch all the coverage of India’s tour to England here

(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)

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