India’s tour of England has been a fascinating contest between two of the best sides in world cricket. Apart from the Lord’s Test which the Joe Root-led English team won by an innings and 159 runs, every match has been a topsy-turvy ride with the momentum of the match shifting like a pendulum with each passing session. However, it was England who were determined enough to hold their nerves to seal the deal by pocketing the series by 3-1 with one Test to spare.
Now the focus shifts to the Kennington Oval in London, where it will be a battle of pride for the Virat Kohli-led India who will fight tooth and nail to save the blushes of yet another embarrassing overseas Test series defeat and end the long series on a top note.
Let’s take a look at how the Indian playing XI could shape up for the fifth Test match against England:
Openers: Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw
The opening combination for the Indian team during overseas tours have been a major issue for a long time now. Both KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan failed to tackle the English seamers, especially the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, even Sam Curran and Chris Woakes along with Ben Stokes have constantly exposed the shaky technique of the Indian openers with the red cherry.
In the fifth Test at the Kennington Oval, Indian batting prodigy and Under-19 World Cup winning skipper Prithvi Shaw is expected to be in the starting line-up and with his fearless attitude, India might find a way to end their opening woes. Meanwhile, Dhawan has also struggled against the new ball, but his good starts with aggressive intent might be enough to keep him in the XI for the final Test at least.
Middle-order: Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli (C), and Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara scored a brilliant century in the fourth Test and became the second batsman to do so in this series after a certain Virat Kohli. Pujara is assured of his No.3 position and his resilient attitude to stay at the crease for a longer period might work wonders this time for Virat Kohli and co.
The number 4 belongs to Virat Kohli as he continues to carry the Indian batting order on his shoulders. Kohli has been excellent in this tour so far and has been able to put his nightmare of a 2014 tour back.
Ajinkya Rahane has had a pretty good series so far. Big numbers might be missing from his statistics but his double-digit scores and ability to stick down the middle for longer periods have been crucial for India. Jinks will probably one of the first names in the playing XI for the fifth Test.
Wicket-keeper: Rishabh Pant
After a decent debut in the Third Test, Pant failed to continue the momentum in the Southampton Test as he scored a duck and 18 runs in the first and second innings respectively. However, Pant is still an infant in the world of Test cricket and his intent to take on the bowlers during the second innings had impressed many. The southpaw needs stability to find his feet in the longest format of the game and Virat Kohli will probably give him a long run in the Test team.
Hardik Pandya have had a torrid tour of England. Apart from that odd five-wicket haul in the third Test, his exploits have largely been worrysome for the fans and Virat Kohli. However, Pandya is at his best whenever the card seems to be against him and he is set to keep his place as he is currently the best option for the all-rounder spot.
Ravichandran Ashwin has been brilliant so far in the Test series. Apart from the Southampton Test, he has constantly troubled the English middle order. His contribution with the bat has been decent too, hence he is more or less expected to keep his place in the playing XI for the final Test. However, he might be rested due to the fact that he is not completely fit.
Indian pace department has been the clear winner in this Test series, with the trio of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah using each other’s strength to take wickets. Ishant with 15 wickets under his belt and has been arguably the best performer for India with the ball, so it won’t be a surprise if he is rested for the upcoming tours’. However, he is likely to keep his spot in the XI.
Shami, on the other hand, has been in and out of his usual top form during this series. The four-wicket haul in the second innings of Southampton Test was special from him and to keep his good momentum, he is expected to start in the fifth Test.
Meanwhile, Jasprit Bumrah had a brilliant comeback to the Indian squad after missing the first two Tests due to an injury. His four wickets in the fourth Test was a positive for India and the pacer will keep his place in the XI.