A series win would now be more epic considering no captain since Don Bradman, in 1931-32, has managed to win a five-match series after being 0-2 down. Kohli-led India had lost at Edgbaston and Lord   s, before making a comeback at Trent Bridge.
A series win would now be more epic considering no captain since Don Bradman, in 1931-32, has managed to win a five-match series after being 0-2 down. Kohli-led India had lost at Edgbaston and Lord s, before making a comeback at Trent Bridge.

With a memorable win at Trent Bridge, India have livened up the five-match Test series, but it is the manner in which they accomplished the task that has forced many to believe that the Virat Kohli-led side could win the series – only their their fourth in England, if it happens.

What could make such a series win more epic is the fact that no captain since Don Bradman, in 1936-37, has managed to win a five-match series after being 0-2 down. India lost at Edgbaston and Lord s, before making a comeback at Trent Bridge where Kohli was Man of the Match for scores of 97 and 103.

And it was quite intriguing to see that the England side that hammered India at Lord s surrendered rather meekly in Nottingham. With the prospect of Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes not 100 percent fit ahead of the fourth Test at Southampton, England suddenly find themselves at equal footing with India.

Then again, the question many may ask is – why this sudden inclination towards India being the favourites?

Cheteshwar Pujara 72 Trent Bridge
Cheteshwar Pujara’s 72 off 208 balls at Trent Bridge was his first Test fifty in six innings. @Getty

Well, to start off with, India have an in-form run-scoring machine in Kohli. Secondly, their pacers outperformed England s at Trent Bridge. Then there is England s top order being vulnerable and the possible unavailability of the above mentioned players.

While England bowlers James Anderson, Sam Curran, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes made merry in the swing-friendly conditions in the first two Tests, India showed that their own pace battery can inflict similar damage. The return of form to India s top order gives much-needed support for Kohli, who has so far amassed 440 runs in six innings.

Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul may not have breached the 50-run mark individually, but in a man-to-man comparison, they are better placed than the current England openers Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings. At No 3, Cheteshwar Pujara has had his struggles but showed at Trent Bridge that he has the ability to overcome adversities.

However for England, their biggest worry is the form of skipper and No.3 Joe Root, who has scored only 142 runs in five innings. Former England opener Nick Compton has suggested that Root may be a better bat at No 4 in Tests with Cook pushed down to No 3. Radical indeed, but England could try it out.

Ollie Pope had not done anything eye-popping yet has been solid. But in comparison to India’s No. 4, it has been a hopeless showing from England.

Bairstow has scored at an average of 52.69 in Tests this year, and even though England may have him as a specialist batsman for the fourth Test, him not being fully fit will hinder their plans. And without Stokes, who limped off the field during Durham s Vitality Blast T20 game last Friday, England are staring at a very long tail which would include Curran, Woakes, Broad, Rashid and Anderson – that is, if they still don t pick Moeen Ali, who in 2014 at Southampton had claimed 6 for 67 in the second innings against India.

Jonny Bairstow injury Trent Bridge
Jonny Bairstow was forced off the field at Trent Bridge in pain. @Getty

What makes it even more tougher for England is the fact that The Ageas Bowl at Southampton is not known for favouring pacers and is a belter of a track. With India looking to draw level in the series, they will be more than happy to have a batting track.

India batted first at Trent Bridge and put runs on the board and then applied the pressure on England. Similarly, at Southampton India would hope to follow the template. While pacers will be on song, it might be up to the spinners to force a result in the game. Ravichandran Ashwin is recovering with a groin strain, but India do have Ravindra Jadeja at their disposal.

For England, Adil Rashid had not done anything substantial with the ball ever since his return to Test cricket, and even if they add Ali – as their second spin option – it is very unlikely that they can outperform the Indian duo if conditions suit spin bowling.

Southampton will be a big test for England. They still can play smartly and with strategy and head to Kennington Oval for the fifth Test with their lead intact, if they try to play for a draw and then the pressure will be on India in the final Test. England will be in the driver’s seat.

If not, Kohli will have every chance to romp home with wins at Southampton and then at The Oval – both known to be good batting wickets.