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Right. Here we are, after five weeks of enthralling cricketing action and with only two results (in terms of the series) possible. India have been the side to beat through the summer and had rain not ruined their day in Nottingham, they might well have had an unassailable lead. Now, they are just marginally ahead on points, although knowing this Indian team under Virat Kohli, nothing but going for the jugular would cross their mind. 

As for England, they look just as deflated as they were post the annihilation at Lord’s – a game they were supposed to win but one they eventually floundered in on the final day, much like it transpired at The Oval. Speaking of their most recent game, they had chances to completely take the match away from the Indians. However, their lack of ruthlessness meant that they left the door ajar for India to barge through. 

As has been the case recently, the hosts’ batters just couldn’t get going when push came to shove. While the openers provided a decent start, there was hardly anything from anyone else. Joe Root, too, looked uncharacteristically flustered and that perhaps permeated through the rest of the team as well. Plus, they had to contend with an extraordinary bowling spell by Jasprit Bumrah. 

Under ordinary circumstances, any side would’ve been given that leeway, for they crumbled against the irresistible force that is Bumrah. For England, though, such collapses have assumed worrying proportions, meaning that that could still be what decides the encounter at Old Trafford. 

India, meanwhile, also have a couple of batting worries to tide over. Ajinkya Rahane has looked woefully out of nick and has hardly resembled a batter who has played close to 80 Tests, whereas Cheteshwar Pujara, despite his refreshing change in approach, hasn’t been able to capitalize on his starts. KL Rahul and Virat Kohli have also looked good, despite not notching up a substantial score, whereas their Ravindra Jadeja experiment also left a lot to be desired at The Oval. 

Bowling-wise, both teams stack up fairly decently if the conditions are favorable. However, if they are flat, as they were at The Oval, India certainly hold an edge, considering they have more variety and pace to break open the contest. If there is a bit of grass, Chris Woakes, James Anderson and Ollie Robinson could still come into their own, although it would be interesting to see how England manage their workloads. 

Thus, as things stand, there isn’t a lot to suggest that England would be able to upset the Indian apple cart. Not just because the visitors seem to have more answers to prospective problems, but also because the Three Lions would be pretty low on confidence. 

However, they would take heart from the fact that when they were backed into such a corner post the 2nd Test, they came out swinging at Headingley, which like Old Trafford, is not a very happy hunting ground for touring outfits. 

If that indeed counts for anything will become clearer over the next few days but in a home summer when England are set to emerge win-less for the first time since 2001, this is perhaps the thinnest of threads they can cling on to! 
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