India will be bolstered by the return of Ishant Sharma in the pace attack © Getty Images
By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Aug 14, 2014
All the promise from Lord’s tapered off with two crushing defeats at Southampton and Old Trafford. India head into the fifth and final Test against England at The Oval, low on confidence and under pressure. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men have been severely criticised for their poor performances in the last two Tests and they face an uphill battle as they try and level the series at The Oval. The home side are riding high on success and happy days seem to have returned in the England camp.
Though Dhoni did not practice on Wednesday, it was only a rest, the team management assured. Ishant Sharma was seen bowling at full tilt and may return to the side. He sat out due to injury after the historic win at Lord’s and his inclusion may add bite to this attack. Stuart Binny was also seen having a hit and may just have a chance of coming back into the side. But, if it is a typical Oval surface, one may expect Ravindra Jadeja to hold on to his spot. Ravichandran Ashwin too is likely to be retained.
Gautam Gambhir returned at Manchester but failed to make a mark. However, India may just persist with him and he may open the batting with Murali Vijay. Though Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli haven’t yet found their form, they are fixtures in the side and have everything to play for at The Oval. Both batsmen would want to iron out a few flaws and come back strongly in this series. Ajinkya Rahane and MS Dhoni seem to be in good touch and have had to shoulder a lot in the middle.
With Ishant possibly coming back, Pankaj Singh may lose his spot in the line-up. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been India’s best bowler and he would hold on to his spot. Varun Aaron brings pace and he impressed at Manchester.
England, in all likelihood, should retain the same side that won at Old Trafford. Alastair Cook kept faith with the same side in Manchester and did not make changes even though there were calls to bring in Steven Finn. England will wait on Stuart Broad’s fitness, who is likely to play with some protective gear on his face following that blow at Manchester. If he doesn’t recover well enough, there may be a change. Moeen Ali, meanwhile, will continue to be the main spinner.
England’s batsmen are back in form, with the exception of Sam Robson. He is the only player who faces some questions and the lack of runs has put pressure on him. Apart from that, it is a very happy England side that is looking to finish off on a high and deny the visitors any chance of victory.
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, Naman Ojha (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.
Time: 10:00 GMT I 15: 30 IST
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(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)