Fresh off the back of a series whitewash against New Zealand, Ben Stokes’ England side will look to continue their resurgence against India at Edgbaston today. Originally scheduled to take place at Old Trafford last summer, a COVID-19 outbreak in the India camp meant the final Test would be forced back a year.
Rohit Sharma has been ruled out of this Test after testing positive for COVID-19 for the second time and Jasprit Bumrah has been named captain of the team. It will be the first time in three and a half decades that a fast bowler will lead India in a Test match.
Lwanele Poswayo previews this 5th and final Test and also has a prediction and the best bets.
A recent change in the regime has seen an immediate change in England’s fortunes, as they come into this match having beaten a formidable New Zealand side 3-0 after four consecutive series defeats. New head coach Brendon McCullum, along with newly appointed captain Ben Stokes, have adopted a win-at-all-costs mentality which is now known as ‘Bazball’. This positive approach was evident when England chased down 299 runs in just 50 overs to win the second Test match against the Black Caps which secured the series win.
Jonny Bairstow will be the player to watch for England, the 32-year-old scored a sensational century in the fourth innings of the second Test against New Zealand. He then followed it up with a quickfire unbeaten fifty in the third match along with a first-innings hundred to seal a series win for his side.
India have also made changes at the top since last year. Head coach Ravi Shastri has been replaced by Rahul Dravid and skipper Rohit Sharma has taken over the reins from Virat Kohli (even though he’ll miss this match). They come into this Test having convincingly beaten Sri Lanka 2-0 in a home series back in March but also lost 2-1 to the Proteas earlier this year.
However, since their arrival in England they have had just the one warm-up match against Leicestershire and the only real positives to come from that match were decent spells from seamer Mohammad Shami 3-3-0-0, and spinner Ravi Ashwin 11-2-31-2. With the bat, the main highlight was Shubman Gill making 121 runs across his two innings.
The last time Virat Kohli played red-ball cricket at Edgbaston, he scored a magnificent hundred and has since left the captaincy behind. Kohli will be determined to remind everyone why he is still considered by many as the best batter on the planet.
Despite the presence of players such as Kohli, India cannot mask the issues plaguing them at the top of the order. Combine that with the hosts’ batting resurgence and their newly-found fearless approach, it looks like a very tall order for India to match their intensity, especially having played just one red ball warm-up fixture leading into this Test match. Therefore, backing England to triumph and level the five-match series at 2-2 has to be considered the best bet.
Form in last five matches:
England have named their XI already, and a predictable one at that, which includes a specialist spinner. That might tell you something about the conditions expected.
England’s XI: 1 Alex Lees, 2 Zak Crawley, 3 Ollie Pope, 4 Joe Root, 5 Jonny Bairstow, 6 Ben Stokes (capt.), 7 Sam Billings, 8 Matthew Potts, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Jack Leach, 11 James Anderson
India have two big questions. One is a conditions-based choice between Shardul Thakur and R Ashwin as the bowler who can bat at No. 8. Ashwin didn’t play any of the four Tests last year but the conditions have been different this year, raising the probability of him playing. The other question is a forced one: who replaces Rohit Sharma? The likelier options are Cheteshwar Pujara, who was dropped from the squad earlier this year, and Mayank Agarwal, who has just been flown in as back-up for Rohit. The other two less likely options are Hanuma Vihari and KS Bharat.
*India’s XI will be named at the toss.
India have never won a Test at Edgbaston, losing six and drawing one on the 1986 tour which is when they last won a series in England before the 2007 triumph.
The average first innings score after 53 Test matches at this venue is 307.
India have won just three of their 18 bi-lateral series in England (L15), the last being a 1-0 success in a three-match series back in 2007.
In the year 2021, runs were scored at an average of 28.25 and an economy rate of 2.9 in England. This year the numbers are 37.11 and an economy rate of 3.8.
The swashbuckling Rishabh Pant is just 80 Test match runs short of the 2,000.
The last time these two sides met was at the Kennington Oval in match #4 of this series which India won by 157-runs.
Ravichandran Ashwin has dismissed Ben Stokes 11 times in Tests at an average of 19.50, albeit eight of those 11 wickets were in India.
James Anderson has taken Cheteshwar Pujara’s wicket nine times in England at an average of just 14.60.