It’s been a riveting series so far and it has swayed from one end to the other. Both batting line-ups have tended to crumble and the bowling has been top-notch from either side. Hence, that sets up the series-finale perfectly. India may be 2-1 up but they have not won a Test series in England since 2007. England recently lost to New Zealand 0-1 and that was their first Test series loss at home since 2014. However, they will be looking to draw this series and back to back series defeats at home.
India’s batting has relied quite a bit on their opening partnership. Rohit Sharm and KL Rahul have been excellent on this tour. The duo have seen off the new ball more often than not and have laid the foundation. However, the middle-order has wobbled a touch. But Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli have got some crucial runs in the last few innings. Ajinkya Rahane’s struggles have been highlighted and this could be his final opportunity. Meanwhile, the bowling, led by Jasprit Bumrah has been superb. Even without the likes of Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami, India produced a special performance at the Oval, especially on a flat surface on day five.
On the other hand, England may have been very good with the ball. But their batting fragilities have once again come to the fore. Barring Joe Root, there have been very little contributions from the others. The openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed have shown promising signs but consistency is lacking. The middle and lower middle-order continues to be a touch iffy. Hence, England’s batting needs to stand up if they are to level this series. Moreover, the fitness of James Anderson could be a concern, given that he has gone four Test matches in a row without a break.
England have shown they can bounce back from defeat and are not an easy side to beat at home. Moreover, India’s afterglow of an overseas Test win has caught them a bit off-guard a couple of times this year. Thus, there is a lot to play for in this Test match as India look to end their 14-year Test series win drought in England.
Team news: England
Jos Buttler returns to the England squad for this Test match. He missed the fourth Test as he was on paternity leave. Joe Root confirmed he walk into the playing XI and it is likely at the expense of either Jonny Bairstow or Ollie Pope. Jack Leach also makes it to the squad but he may not make it to the XI. Meanwhile, Mark Wood could replace Craig Overton in the pace attack.
Team news: India
Mohammed Shami is expected to be fit for this fifth Test and he will slot back into the side for India. One of Umesh Yadav or Mohammed Siraj are likely to miss out. The rest of the XI will most probably be the same. Ravichandran Ashwin could continue to sit out with rain predicted for the first three days.
England: Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Jonny Bairstow/Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood/Craig Overton, Ollie Robinson, James Anderson
India: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav/Mohammed Siraj
Joe Root: There is absolutely no doubt how vital Joe Root has been for this England side. Throughout the series, the same template has followed. It’s been more Root vs India than England vs India when the hosts are batting. If the England skipper has got a big score, England have managed to post a substantial total. Else, they have struggled. Root has been in mind-boggling form in this series and this year on the whole in Test cricket. He has already smashed three hundreds and has accumulated 564 runs at an average of 94 in this series. In 2021, Root has aggregated 1455 runs at an average of 66.13 and has recorded six tons as well.
Rohit Sharma: Rohit Sharma has been India’s best batsman of this series. The 34-year-old opener has never been dismissed in single figures in this series. He has shown some magnificent temperament to bat at the top of the order and has countered the England bowlers superbly. Rohit has blunted the new ball in almost every innings that he has batted and has scored 368 runs at an average of 52.57 in this series. Hence, he will once again be crucial for India in a batting line-up that has been quite inconsistent.