India play fifth Test to salvage pride and series
India go into the fifth and the final Test match at The Oval Friday determined to salvage some pride and the draw the five-match series against England. India were humiliated in Manchester, losing the fourth Test by an innings and 54 runs inside three days. The win helped England take a 2-1 lead and also save skipper Alastair Cook’s job.
India’s ‘spineless’ performance was shocking, to put it mildly. It is hard to believe that the same Indian team scored more than 800 runs in the first drawn Test and won the the second Test by 95 runs at Lord’s to go one-up in the series. But as the series progressed, India gradually disintegrated and lost the Rose Bowl Test by 266 runs and the winning margin just got bigger for England in the fourth Test, which they wrapped up in less than three days at Old Trafford.
The two extra days after the Manchester Test might have helped India rejuvenate for the fifth and the series decider here at The Rose Bowl. But skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni chose to keep off training here Wednesday. He instead spent time at a shooting range. Guns and bikes are his passion outside cricket field.
The talking point here is whether India’s premier fast bowler Ishant Sharma, who missed the last two Tests with an ankle injury, would be fit to play in the last Test. In the absence of Ishant, the Indian attack lacked teeth.
Ishant appears to have recovered sufficiently enough from the injury and was at the nets. The question is whether he will be able to handle the load over five days and the trainer will have to take the final call before the start of the Test.
If Ishant plays, he will be replacing Pankaj Singh while Varun Aaron, who bowled with raw pace in Manchester, is sure to retain his place in the side.
Gautam Gambhir, who returned to the Test side after a year-and-half, struggled at Old Trafford. But it seems the southpaw would get another chance. He has spent a long time in the nets with Trevor Penney giving him throw-downs, trying his best to avoid the edges.
Though India are likely to retain the same playing eleven, but it would be interesting to see if pace-bowling all-rounder Stuart Binny returns to the side in place of Ravindra Jadeja, who is surely clueless against pace bowling.
Jadeja played a crucial role in India’s win at Lord’s but his batting has been a big let down in the series and his bowling has also become predictable. For sure, Jadeja and the openers are the two worries for India going into the Test.
Meanwhile, England will be going out for the kill. But they also have their worries — opener Sam Robson and the susceptibility of the batsmen against short-pitched deliveries.
Stuart Broad, who suffered a broken nose in Manchester from a Varun Aaron’s delivery, is likely to be fit for the final showdown and will be playing without a face mask.
Joe Root sounded optimistic when asked about Broad’s chances of playing in the fifth Test.
“It (injury) is not very pretty. He’s not got his boy band looks you’d normally associate with Stuart. He’s milking it definitely, as you’ll probably have seen on all the social network sites,” said Root. “But I’m sure he’ll be desperate to play Friday. He’s obviously in good form, and will be wanting to finish the series strongly with the rest of us,” he said.
England (from): Alastair Cook (captain), Sam Robson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Ben Stokes, Chris Jordan, Stuart Broad, Steve Finn, James Anderson, Chris Woaakes
India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/wicketkeeper), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Naman Ojha, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron, Pankaj Singh
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka) and Paul Reiffel (Australia)
Referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)