England’s captivating summer series against India concludes with the fifth Test at Old Trafford, with the visitors holding a slender 2-1 lead heading into the Manchester finale.
Overall, India have been much more consistent in the four Tests so far, while England have produced spells to keep them in contention and, as the match odds suggest, working out which way this crucial Manchester showdown will go is difficult.
Clearly, all outcomes are possible but considering the way the tourists ruthlessly got the job done in the fourth Test at the Oval last week, another India victory at those odds appeals.
Bumrah Can Inspire India Again
India have been in better form with both the bat and ball across the whole series and it could be paceman Jasprit Bumrah who tips the fifth Test in their favour.
Bumrah struck twice in five balls after lunch on the final day at the Oval as England attempted to chase their unlikely target of 368 and he is on offer at a tempting
19/10 to be India’s top first-innings bowler this time around.
India’s bowling attack has thwarted England time and again this summer, with Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, Ravindra Jadeja and Umesh Yadav all taking key wickets as the hosts, aside from skipper Root, have struggled to find the big scores necessary to take charge of games.
Root Needs Help
Remarkably, Root is the only England player to manage a century in the series and if it wasn’t for the skipper, India would probably already have wrapped things up.
Wicket-keeper batsman Jos Buttler will return to the side at Old Trafford and if England are to earn a 2-2 draw, one of he, Haseeb Hameed, Rory Burns or Dawid Malan will surely have to find a big score.
The Nottinghamshire man followed up his 68 at Headingley in the third Test with 63 in the second innings at the Oval. Those scores suggest a first Test century might just be around the corner and Old Trafford would be the perfect place for that to occur.
Weather a Possible Factor
The weather could also play its part over the five days and there is plenty of uncertainty in the forecast. It looks likely there will be some rain around on Friday at least, before a cloudy but drier weekend is expected to follow.
Root has said the conditions will dictate whether Somerset left-arm spinner Jack Leach, who has returned to the squad but has not played a Test since March, will feature, while one of Jonny Bairstow or Ollie Pope will likely make way for Buttler.
Anderson to be Rested?
Jimmy Anderson will be keen to shine on familiar territory at Old Trafford but there are some question marks over his fitness levels amid reports he will be rested.
Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami missed the fourth Test due to niggling injuries and could return, although India are expected to resist making too many changes following their impressive display in the fourth Test.
*All odds correct at time of writing