Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester
Date: Friday, September 10 – Tuesday, September 14
England and India have played out an enthralling series and – despite Covid positives in the Indian camp – it looks like the fifth and final Test is going to be played. England needs a win for a series draw while India knows a win would give them a 3-1 win and a drawn Test would be enough for them to claim a series victory. This is all possible after rain prevented the first Test from being completed.
The second Test became crucial after the washout and it was India who proved to be too much for their hosts as they won by 151 runs. India was put in to bat by England and answered the challenge as Lord’s as they put up a score of 364 behind 129 from KL Rahul. A first-innings 180 not out by the awesome Joe Root wasn’t enough, especially after Root was bowled for 33 in the second innings as England chased the game. Mohammad Siraj was the star with the ball, taking eight wickets in the match for India.
England needed a response and they got one in the third Test as it moved to Headingly. An astonishing first innings bowling performance – including James Anderson taking 3-for-6 in eight overs – saw India bowled out for just 8 runs, their lowest-ever score in a first-innings away from home. Root again stole the show with the bat on his way to 121 as England powered out to a score of 432 all-out. India made 278 in their second innings, meaning that England picked up the victory by an innings and 76 runs.
The fourth Test was finely balanced after first-innings scores of 191 for India and 290 for England. It was India, however, that took control with a mammoth 466 in their second innings paced by a wonderful 127 from Rohit Sharma. Haseeb Hameed played well with the bat in putting up 63 for the hosts, but there was never enough firepower for a chase of 368 for victory or enough guile in the batting to play out the day and take the draw. England now needs to recover for the fifth Test or face a series defeat.
Jos Buttler is back in the England team and will keep wicket after missing the fourth Test due to the birth of his second child. His return – he played in each of the first three Tests – will be comforting to an England side still reeling from that second innings onslaught in the fourth Test. Jack Leach – a spinner who plays his country cricket for Somerset – is also in the squad and that asks questions around the fitness of some of the England bowlers after what has been a long series.
England may not have been at it with the bat on the fifth day in the fourth Test but there was some awe-inspiring Indian bowling at play too. Jasprit Bumrah was near unplayable with his 90mph reverse swing causing the England batsmen fits and the yorker he tossed to Jonny Bairstow was one that would have had the Englishman contemplating his career choice after the match. The Indian players look to have overcome their Covid scare and it would be a surprise to see major changes in their lineup.
I like England here at 37/20 with BetXchange in a battle between two very well-matched sides. Deciding who will drop out for Buttler will be key – the wrong choice in terms of batting form could cause problems – but it just feels like England needs this win as they aim to stop this being their worst summer – in terms of results at least – in over two decades.