England head to Old Trafford this week looking to take a 2-1 series lead over India but, despite James Anderson’s ICC reprieve, it could be a different XI that takes to field this time around.
A 10-Test winless streak was ended with a 266-run victory at the Ageas Bowl but now is not the time for Alastair Cook’s side to become complacent.
Meanwhile there is a real chance that Steven Finn will play his first Test match in more than a year. The Middlesex seamer has been drafted into the squad as a replacement for the injured Liam Plunkett.
The good form showed by the top-order with the bat must be continued in Manchester. Ian Bell (167) and Gary Ballance (156) led the way after Alastair Cook posted 95 at the top of the order, as England declared on 569-7 in the first innings of the third Test.
Prior to that, the side had become increasingly reliant on the tailend to do most of the legwork with both bat and ball. But another strong batting performance could put England in control of the match once again.
With runs on the board, Cook can then trust his frontline bowlers to do the business and take quick wickets.
James Anderson’s “not guilty” verdict for his altercation with Ravindra Jadeja was almost as well received as news of England’s first Test win in nearly a year, such is the importance of the team’s best bowler.
The Lancastrian is now second on the list of all-time English Test wicket-takers. He trails Sir Ian Botham by just 12 dismissals, and where better to surpass the legendary all-rounder, than the 32-year-old’s home ground?
Match figures of 7-77 in Southampton helped provide England with such a convincing victory in their last Test match, and he is integral to the hosts’ chances of winning this series.
Despite the efforts of both Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan in Southampton, neither was able to take a wicket. The return of Steve Finn – likely to be in place of one of those – could provide some strong support for Anderson and Stuart Broad.
The 25-year-old seamer became the youngest Englishman to take 50 Test wickets in June 2011. This summer he has been focusing on the domestic game, and is the County Championship Division One’s fourth-top wicket-taker – his 44 wickets have come at an average just below 30.
Finn hasn’t played five-day cricket since the first Test of last summer’s Ashes, but has been called up as a replacement for Plunkett. The Yorkshire fast bowler was impressive at the start of this series, but is now set to miss a second consecutive Test with an ankle injury.
With Stuart Broad potentially being rested to recuperate his knee injury, Finn could be heavily relied on by Cook.
Victory in the third Test won’t make critics of Cook’s captaincy disappear straight away, however, the left-handed opener certainly showed his pedigree as a leader at the Ageas Bowl.
He started by leading by example with the bat, scoring 95 and 70* to lay strong foundations in each England innings. Then he received praise for his use of Moeen Ali, as the part-time spinner took his career-best Test figures of 6-67 on the final day.
The continued development and improvement of the all-rounder will be under keen assessment at Old Trafford, and Ian Bell is confident that Ali can continue to contribute
"Having watched him bowl in the first Test, and having faced him in the nets, it felt like he was bowling in the Test as he was in the nets," Bell said of Ali.
"The important thing for me was trying to get him clear on what his role was at different times in the game.
"Swanny was brilliant at having two game plans: hold up an end for the seamers when conditions aren’t in your favour, then bowl aggressively when they are. Moeen is naturally aggressive: he gets spin on the ball and good shape."
India team news
MS Dhoni is once again without the services of Ishant Sharma, who took 7-74 as India beat England by 95 runs in the second Test at Lord’s.
Pankaj Singh replaced the tall seamer in Southampton, but the debutant had a torrid time, returning match figures of 0-179.
Muralia Vijay (364) and Ajinkya Rahane (270) are the top-scorers for the tourists in this series – both have averaged over 50 with the bat this summer.
The fourth Test between England and India begins at Old Trafford this Thursday.
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