Ind Vs Eng 4th Test
Virat Kohli & Co. halved England's lead in Nottingham. Can they wipe it out in Southampton? © AFP
Things could have been so different. One day before before a make-or-break game, there was an aura of comfort and anticipation around the India practice session. Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Mohammed Shami were involved in a friendly, three-a-side football game with Prithvi Shaw, Shardul Thakur and Karun Nair. The rest of the fast bowling pack gathered around the side pitches to have a chat, while Dinesh Karthik, Hanuma Vihari and a few others tried out the various new set-ups to improve slip catching.
With the series on the line, you would've expected a tougher grind, a more focused, a more intense session. But India came in with their confidence and form - lifted thanks to a mighty win at Nottingham. And just like that, they are a team transformed. It even showed in the press conference when Kohli allowed the journalists a rare peek into what the team might look like on the morrow - saying they see no need to change the winning combination.
England, on the other hand, still show some aftereffects of the defeat. Joe Root's press conference was dominated by his decision to play Jonny Bairstow as a specialist batsmen and how that will affect the balance of the side and the batting partners. The move deserved some questioning, of course. Only 24 hours ago had Bairstow stated in the same room that he had not batted in the top four, and would love to hang on to his keeping gloves.
If that was some surprise, England sprung a couple more by making two selection changes. Chris Woakes made way for Sam Curran, the man of the match at Edgbaston, due to an injury. Moeen Ali returned too, in place of No.4 batsman Ollie Pope, but will bat at number 7.
For a team that is already struggling with their batting, it does look like too many drastic changes, but it adds a great amount of depth, with Sam Curran coming at number 8 now. It also gives England an extra bowling option, which would come in handy as Ben Stokes, according to Root, is not fully fit to bowl the usual load expected off him.
It could have been a whole lot different, but India's win has turned the tide. They will hope to fully capitalise and restore parity in the series, while England will strive to reclaim their two-win advantage and seal the series.
When: India vs England, 4th Test, 11:00 AM local time, 3:30 PM IST
Where: The Rose Bowl, Southampton
What to expect: The pitch currently wears a green tinge and looks hard. However the bounce could be spongy and could still be hardwork for the bowlers. The forecasts for weather point at cloudy days ahead, which might help the pacers.
Virat Kohli hinted at an unchanged XI, saying they see no need to change their line-up. If the pitch does undergo a change before toss time, and becomes more spin conducive, Ravindra Jadeja might be a late shoo-in.
Probable XI: Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah.
Joe Root confirmed two changes for England, with Sam Curran and Moeen Ali coming in.
Starting XI: Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Joe Root (c), Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
What they said:
"Right now we understand that we are in a very exciting position to have gained momentum at the right time in the series and to have played like that when 2-nil down when everyone thought that it is going to be a clean sweep or we are going to be rolled over." - India captain Virat Kohli is pleased with his team's bouncebackability.
"Even though we struggled last week, one thing you can never say about this group of players is that they lack character. Whenever in the past we have had a bad week, we usually bounce back pretty strong. I expect that to be the case this time around. There will be people with a point to prove." - Joe Root on his team's character after a defeat in the third Test.