The final Test of a long and absorbing summer is upon us. With England already having sewn up the series in Southampton, there is a risk this game could be somewhat of a non-event. But two reasons make that unlikely.
Firstly, it will be Alastair Cook’s final Test in an England shirt which should make it a memorable and emotional occasion. And secondly, Virat Kohli is not the sort of captain to simply lay down and die. His Indian team will be up for this game.
A 4-1 victory for England would be a fantastic result considering they were slight underdogs at the start of the series while India would probably feel hard done by if things were to finish up that way. A 3-2 defeat for Kohli’s men would arguably be a fairer reflection of the state of the two teams but England will do well to remind themselves of their 2016 tour to India when the home side ground them into the dust in the final match in Chennai, scoring a mammoth 759/7 declared. The best teams are uncompromising.
There will also certainly be plenty at stake for individuals on both sides. For England, their series win has not been able to gloss over serious deficiencies with their top order batting and Cook’s retirement will only exacerbate that problem. Keaton Jennings needs a score ahead of the winter and Moeen Ali will probably have a chance to nail down the number three spot. Similarly, India’s batsmen, Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara apart, have plenty to prove ahead of their next Test assignment, a home series against West Indies.
It would be fitting for such a brilliant series, which has been so full of ebb and flow and skill and calamity, with a healthy balance between bat and ball, that the final Test at The Oval is another match high on drama. A close game would reflect well on the series so far. And who would begrudge Alastair Cook hitting the winning runs, to seal his match-winning hundred and England’s victory, late on day five? We can only hope for a perfect send-off for a true England great.
When: Friday September 7, 2018
Where: The Oval, London
What to expect: Although there has been some rain around in the week preceeding the game, The Oval surface is likely to be flat and true, which would be a welcome relief for the batsmen on both sides after tough four games. The weather is set fair for all five days.
Captain Joe Root has confirmed that England will be unchanged for The Oval Test with Moeen Ali batting at three, just as he did in the second innings at the Ageas Bowl, and Jonny Bairstow returning as wicket-keeper having fully recovered from a finger injury sustained at Trent Bridge. The home side have resisted the temptation to rest either James Anderson and Stuart Broad, and both will take the new ball.
Playing XI: Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Moeen Ali, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Adil Rashid, Sam Curran, Stuart Broad, James Anderson
The visitors could make two changes to their line-up with left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja likely to come into the side to replace R Ashwin, who struggled in Southampton with a groin issue. Opener KL Rahul looks likely to retain his spot, while Hanuma Vihari looks set to play his maiden game, coming in place of Hardik Pandya.
Probable XI: KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Puajra, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
Did You Know
– Virat Kohli needs 59 more runs to go past Rahul Dravid (602 runs in 2002) for the highest series aggregate for an Indian player in England.
– India have lost their last two Tests at the Oval by innings margins – innings & 8 runs in 2011 and innings and 244 runs in 2014.
– The openers have batted 30 innings among them so far this series without a single 50+ score. Never before in a five-Test series did the openers fail to go past 50 even once.