India will be looking for their first win in nearly five decades at the Oval when they square off against England in the fifth and final test beginning on Friday.
The Indian team will essentially be playing for pride- England wrapped up the series at the Rose Bowl and have an unassailable 3-1 lead going into this fixture.
With momentum on their side after a win in the third test, India squandered a great opportunity to draw level in Southampton. They had the hosts reeling at 86/6 on the first afternoon, but allowed them to make 246. In their reply, they were 142/2 at one stage, but collapsed to 195/8 and were able to only take a slender 27 run lead. They had England precariously placed at 122/5 in the second innings, but again allowed the tail to wag, and in the fourth innings, chasing 245, collapsed from 123/3 to 184 all out.
The fifth test at the Oval will be Alastair Cook’s last for England. Cook will therefore bow out of the international arena against India, the same team against whom he had made his test debut twelve years ago.
As mentioned above, the visitors have given a fairly good account of themselves on this tour, but despite their best efforts, find themselves 3-1 down. Their solitary victory came at Trent Bridge (check out the podcast by 1Tip1Hand for their experience- definitely worth a listen!). That test, interestingly enough, was the only one that Sam Curran, one of the players of the series for the hosts, did not feature in.
Having already lost the series, India will be looking to end the tour on a high note, and may considering making some changes to the XI.
The 18 year old Prithvi Shaw could make his debut at the expense of KL Rahul who has been horribly out of touch with the bat, although the latter’s slip catching has been nothing short out of standing.
Left arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja is expected to come in for Ravi Ashwin, who aggravated his injury in the 4th test at Southampton. Ashwin was outbowled by Moeen Ali at the Rose Bowl in conditions that one would’ve expected the former to excel in.
Another option would be getting Karun Nair in place of Hardik Pandya, but that would mean India going in with four bowlers rather than five.
Meanwhile, England will be looking to give a winning farewell to Alastair Cook- one of their greatest ever openers and also their record run scorer in tests.
The home team received a major boost as Chris Woakes has been declared fit. Adil Rashid could face the axe if England chose to bolster their pace attack.
History certainly favours England- they’ve won their last two games against India by an innings, and the visitors last triumphed here in 1971- their maiden win in England, thanks to Bhagwath Chandrasekhar’s heroics with the ball.
England v India at the KIA Oval begins on September 7 (Friday)