England v India, 4th Test: Possibility of an all-out pace attack from England
The last time India played a Test at the Rose Bowl, they conceded 569 runs and went with only 4 specialist bowlers, who managed to take 5 of the 11 wickets that England lost in the course of the entire game. Jimmy Anderson took 7 in the same time. It was a very different story then. India had won a most memorable Test match at Lord's and then lost 3 on the bounce. The Southampton Test was the third of those losses. There was no designated all-rounder in the team, with only Ravindra Jadeja left to do all the bat-twirling.
Cut to today, there is a different vibe about tomorrow's game. It may certainly be because India have come off an excellent win at Trent Bridge. But that is not the only reason the Indian camp will be optimistic about the game ahead. With a pace attack that is a mixture of both the new and the old, India have bowled their absolute guts out in the 3 games preceding tomorrow's game. The Anderson-Kohli battle has been utterly one-sided and India's iffy middle order clicked in the previous game.
This goes to show just how much went into that win at Trent Bridge. The openers gave quick, strong starts in both innings, Kohli scored 200 runs in the match, Pujara and Rahane scored 72 and 81. And then came the bowlers. Ishant with prodigious movement to get Cook out fishing outside off, Shami with a hint of reverse swing, and the Pandya-Bumrah duet accounting for 13 wickets in the game formed India's piece de resistance at Nottingham. Which makes the next question interesting, will both teams go with an all-pace attack? It might slow the game down. But when two teams have been bowling as well as they have been over the past month, it is a viable question.
England made a tactical mistake in leaving Sam Curran out for the returning Ben Stokes. Stokes, on his part, repaid the faith shown by the England faithful by scoring a laborious 62 off 187 in the 169 run partnership with Jos Buttler. But with Adil Rashid bowling 36 overs across the last two Tests, 27 of those in the 2nd innings at Trent Bridge, it is a question of whether England want to go with the convenience of having a leggie / picking a non-frontline spinner in Moeen Ali in case the pitch dries up or slight boldness by bringing Curran back into the XI. Moeen's fabulous all-round performance (219 and a 6-fer against Yorkshire) in the recently concluded round of County Cricket certainly gives him a fair chance. It is a question of guts, especially after poor Kuldeep Yadav went from the hottest thing in England to being sent back home after going at 5 runs per over at Lord's.
India seem to have Ravi Ashwin back at full tilt. But with the pitch sporting a green tinge and no actual confirmation on Ashwin's fitness, Umesh Yadav wouldn't be a bad choice. The Indian seamers have bowled at a quicker pace than the English bowlers in this series and adding Umesh will provide an extra zing to an already impressive pace attack. The other Ravi, Jadeja may also get a look in, but that may be subject to his namesake's fitness.
Or, India may very well play the same XI. It would be their first since Virat Kohli took over the captaincy. But England look more likely to make some changes. There are questions right at the top of the order (Jennings and Cook, purely due to the lack of a big score), in the middle (Bairstow's injury) and in the bowling department. All in all, it should be a keenly contested game. One team looking to equalize and the other plugging its leaks one after the other. Only one team in the history of the game has overturned a 2-0 series deficit to win 3-2. And that team had one Donald George Bradman in it.