London [UK], September 1 (ANI): With the five-match Test series between India and England poised perfectly at 1-1, the focus heading into the fourth game remains on whether ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will finally be given a chance in the playing XI or not.
The fourth Test will be played at the Oval, and traditionally the ground has offered assistance to the spinners so if the management wants to unleash the off-spinner, this would be the perfect opportunity.
Few eyes rolled when Ashwin was not given a chance in the Headingley Test after being excluded in the first two Tests, but now it could be hard to explain the premier off-spinner's exclusion if he once again fails to make the cut.
Moving forward, if Ashwin does get the go-ahead, it would be interesting to see who goes out of the line-up. Ishant Sharma clearly looked out of sorts in the third Test as he was running in gingerly but skipper Virat Kohli suggested that there was no injury issue with the veteran pacer.
All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja had also undergone scans on his knee at the end of the third Test against England. It was seen more as a precautionary check after he hurt his knee while fielding in the match. It is not known whether the all-rounder will play at the Oval, and if not, Shardul can make a comeback into the lineup.
It is unlikely that the management would go in with extra batsmen as skipper Kohli has already said that he does not believe in the concept of playing an extra batsman. Coming to the batting, KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma have looked like the two best batsmen in the lineup and the real issue has been the middle-order.
Cheteshwar Pujara might have scored 91 in the second innings of the Headingley Test, but he needs to be consistent and hit a purple patch. The same can be said about skipper Kohli, who has gone 51 innings without a ton in international cricket. James Anderson and Ollie Robinson have had the better of the Indian skipper outside off and it needs to be seen whether Kohli looks to leave anything outside the off-stump just like Sachin Tendulkar had refused to play the cover drive back in Sydney against Australia in 2003.
Ajinkya Rahane is under the spotlight and he needs to score runs consistently. Being a vice-captain, the inconsistency is there for everyone to see, and being a senior pro, the right-handed batsman needs to rise to the occasion. Rishabh Pant has also not stayed true to his talent as he has looked to just attack in every situation. The left-hander needs to realise his potential and play according to the situation.
Coming to hosts, Joe Root has already amassed more than 500 runs in the series and if he continues to pile on the runs, India would definitely be left on the back foot. Good signs for England were that openers Haseeb Hameed and Rory Burns also got 50+ scores in the Headingley Test.
England would be without Jos Buttler in the fourth Test and Jonny Bairstow would don the wicketkeeping gloves. James Anderson is already turning back time to display a vintage style of bowling and it is safe to say, the next match of the five-Test series lies on a knife's edge.
Squads: England: Joe Root (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Sam Billings, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
India: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Axar Patel, Wriddhiman Saha, Umesh Yadav, Hanuma Vihari, Abhimanyu Easwaran. (ANI)