• Ranchoddas

IND vs ENG 2021, 4th Test, The Oval:Who will play and win?

As India head into the fourth Test against England with the scoreline being 1-1. The first match ended in a draw and India walked away with a win in the second Test at Lord's. England produced an admirable fightback by winning the third Test by an innings and 76 runs.

IND vs ENG 2021, 4th Test
IND vs ENG 2021, 4th Test

Team India has a very poor record while playing Test cricket at the Oval. So far, they have played 13 Tests at this venue and went on to win on only one occasion. They lost five games while seven contests ended in a draw. India have not won a Test at this venue over the last 50 years.

While much of the talk ahead of the match will center on India's changes to playing XI, the inclusion of Mark Wood and Chris Woakes, there will also be chatter about player battles.

Ahead of the fourth Test, we take a look at some of the key players:

Ravichandran Ashwin

Former England captain Nasser Hussain has said that “world No. 2 spinner” Ravichandran Ashwin should have played in Headingley and that he must play at The Oval in the fourth Test, starting September 2. A number of former players have advocated for Ashwin’s inclusion in the playing XI as he is yet to play in India’s five-Test series.

“What India do have is an off-spin bowler ranked No. 2 in the world and a batsman good enough to have made five Test centuries in Ravichandran Ashwin. He should have played at Headingley against England’s five left-handers and he must play at The Oval,” Hussain wrote in his column for the Daily Mail.

Ajinkya Rahane

India could introduce Vihari or another new batter into the team even if they stick to their favoured five-bowler combination, if they leave out Rahane. It would be a big call, since he's their vice-captain, and an experienced hand who has scored runs all over the world. He has only passed 20 once in this series, but that innings, a second-innings 61 at Lord's, played a key role in India winning the Test match.

However, it wouldn't be entirely out of character for India to drop Rahane. They have left him and Pujara out in the past when they've felt recent form has demanded it, or if they have noted a technical issue that would be better dealt with in the nets.

Ishant Sharma

Ishant Sharma has been India’s premier fast bowler for now, but still, more often than not he is questioned regarding his form. Similar was the case after the third Test against England at Leeds. He went wicketless, and India lost the match by an innings and 76 runs.

His performance - 22 over and 92 runs without a wicket — was the worst among all the Indian bowlers who played in the match. Even though Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami confirmed that was nothing wrong with his fitness, a lot is made out of his slow approach to the run-up and multiple no-balls.

“You can’t judge someone like Ishant Sharma on one game performance. Yes, we have good four-five bowlers and there is a competition there but you don’t want to see a different bowler in every Test match,” he added.

Asked if Ishant will be replaced in the fourth Test, Nehra said, “Because of conditions in Oval, we might see Ashwin get a game in place of a fast bowler, whether it is in place of Ishant or Siraj, only time will tell,” Nehra said.

Jasprit Bumrah vs Joe Root

Pit England's finest batsman against one of India's best bowlers, and a cracking contest is assured. Joe Root has been in the form of his life with scores of 64, 109, 180* and 121, while Jasprit Bumrah has 14 wickets to his name so far in the series.

He has managed to get the wicket of the England captain thrice in all of their encounters so far and their clash will make for a spicy contest.

India skipper Virat Kohli vs James Anderson

Kohli and Anderson have had epic rivalries in the series in the past. After a disaster 2014 series for the batsman, he got the better of Anderson in the series in 2016 and 2018, only to stutter against the seamer again.

With that 55 in the second innings of the third Test, Kohli will be a lot more confident against Anderson, who has 13 wickets in the series so far. Kohli, on the other hand, has managed 124 runs from five innings at an average of 24.80.

Both sides want to win.

Indian former cricketer Zaheer Khan said the hosts will have the momentum and confidence edge over India going into this Test, courtesy of their outright win at Headingley.

He explained:

"England definitely have the edge going into this Test because they are coming off such a big win. India were ahead in the series and England leveled it so things like momentum shift and confidence levels will come into play. The England camp will feel they can take the lead and put even more pressure on India for the final Test."

Both sides, they don’t want to give an inch. When you have two countries where cricket means a lot to them, a set of players for whom winning means a lot, then you do have heated exchanges.

The five-Test series is intriguingly poised, with both sides having won one match apiece with two matches to be played. A win for either team in the Oval Test will give them an unassailable lead. The crucial 4th test, which will begin on September 2nd.