By News Team
9th September 2021
After another fifth-day clincher for India and Virat Kohli in the fourth Test at the Oval, it’s on to Old Trafford for the fifth and final Test of the series where England will need to stop the visitors’ momentum in their hunt for history
While the neutral fan can in no way be disappointed by the cricket, they have seen this series, it’s a different story for home supporters who once again had to endure England letting slip of an opportunity to put the game to bed after reaping the rewards of their hard graft.
Can England level the series with the fifth Test getting under way on Friday?
New faces at Old Trafford
Going into the Oval Test, England would have hoped that they would arrive in Manchester the following week well rested and sitting on a 2-1 lead with a shot at victory. However, that is not the situation they find themselves in. Instead, they arrive in the north-west to a must-win game if they are to take anything from this series as the draw is the best they can hope for.
To do this, Joe Root and Chris Silverwood have recalled Jack Leach to the squad and Jos Buttler, who was unavailable for selection at the Oval to be at the birth of his child. Unlike vice-captain Buttler, who will come back into the side, it’s unconfirmed whether Leach will make the final XI, but changes are certainly needed if we are to see a revitalised England.
Jimmy Anderson is a big cause for concern having played all four Tests of the series so far at the age of 39 and the home side haven’t been in a position to practice their rotation policy with Mark Wood, Stuart Broad, and Jofra Archer all out of action due to injury. Jimmy’s age is seldom out of the headlines and it’s not without its cause, as with an Ashes series ahead it could seem foolish to risk overworking him here at his home ground.
It’s not just Anderson who is a doubt for the starting line-up. Ollie Robinson has shouldered a lot of the workload this series and there are reports that he too may need a rest. This leaves the option open of playing Leach alongside Moeen Ali and taking a spin-heavy approach. At one of the most spin-friendly pitches in the country along with a blistering forecast, this might not be as wacky as it first seems.
England will need to do something different ahead of the fifth Test if they are to get out of the slump they find themselves in, because it’s not that they have been playing bad cricket this summer. Rather the opposite, there has been plenty of good cricket on display. The problem lies within their ability to finish their opponent off. Every time India have hit the canvas, England have helped them to their feet, offered them a drink, and rubbed their shoulders until they’re ready to start sparring again.
Kohli hungry for it
Virat Kohli is a fierce competitor and winning this next Test will mean plenty to him. And if there’s one man that can come out of a slight slump in form with an almighty bang, it’s him. Kohli will look to punish England and take the series win in a convincing fashion, so it would be no surprise to see him finally get a big score. The market couldn’t be closer in that both sides are priced at 2/1 to take the victory while the draw is at 13/8.
However, a more interesting market could lie within the highest opening partnership, where England are unsurprisingly the underdogs at 11/10; India are 8/11 favourites. But that doesn’t tell the whole story as over the series Haseeb Hameed and Rory Burns have both shown glimmers of what they can do, particularly in the last Test. Both will know this is their last chance to impress and put themselves on the plane to Australia for the Ashes later in the year, and a mighty opening stand wouldn’t be outside the realms of possibilities.
It should be a simple equation for England. If they play the cricket they have played over the summer with a clinical edge they will win the Test and draw the series. If India play the cricket they have played over the summer and England aren’t clinical in finishing them off, then they will win the Test and the series. Much will be learnt about the true character of this England side at Old Trafford.