Rose Bowl, Southampton
August 30 to September 3, 15:30 IST
Live on SPN, streaming on SonyLiv
The main picture
The ability of the current Indian team to produce strong performances when they have their backs to the wall is one aspect that cannot be discounted. Before the tour of South Africa, the Virat Kohli-led India had won every time they were 0-1 down in a Test series. Though they lost the Test series against the Proteas after the first two Tests, the result achieved in the inconsequential third Test, on a tough pitch and when the situation was dire, spoke a lot about the character of the team. Much of the credit for the team’s character has to be attributed to captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri, whose great quality is being defiant in times of adversity.
Before the third Test, Shastri spoke about the team not having a “negative bone” despite being 0-2 down in the series and the manner of defeat at Lord’s. His players went and produced a strong all-round performance to repeat the heroics of the South African tour, and the 203-run victory in the “third Test” at Trent Bridge has shifted the equilibrium in India’s favour even though England remain 2-1 ahead in the five-Test series. India have the momentum, their batsmen have found a method to counter the threat of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes, the potency of the bowling attack has gone up a notch with the return of Jasprit Bumrah and India’s slip catching at Trent Bridge was commendable.
India have traditionally been a slow starter in overseas Test series, but the length of the series against England offers them hope of turning around their fortunes, particularly after winning the third Test and keeping the series live.
As was the case with India after defeats in the first two Tests, England’s major area of concern is their batting line-up, particularly the top order and the form of Alastair Cook and Joe Root, who have made only one 50-plus score in five innings so far. Cook continues to have the support of his captain, coach and the selectors, but the home team desperately need their experienced opener to produce the goods. Cook’s form isn’t the only concern for England, with Keaton Jennings falling cheaply in four of the five innings he has played so far. Batting at No. 4, Ollie Pope’s strokeplay has been impressive but he hasn’t produced an innings of substance.
The fight shown by Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes and the scores they made for themselves first and foremost, bode well for England, who will also hope that Jonny Bairstow is fit enough to play as a specialist and can produce the goods as a batsman.
Though the margin of defeats was huge in the second and third Tests, this series hasn’t been short of excitement and that trend is likely to remain the same for the rest of the tour.
India vs England 4th Test pitch report and weather forecast
Rose Bowl in Southampton is a new Test venue which has, to date, hosted only two Tests. The Test match between India and England in 2014 was the last played here and that was a high-scoring match. The pitch for the limited-overs matches is usually good for batting, though like most other pitches in the country, the overhead conditions are likely to dictate its behaviour.
The forecast says that all five days of the Test should see periods of sunny and cloudy weather with temperatures hovering in the early 20s.
India vs England 4th Test playing 11
England have more selection calls to make than their visitor. Moeen Ali is fresh from scoring a double hundred for Worcestershire and may be an option to replace Ollie Pope, though the team management should be aware that the Indian bowlers have enjoyed bowling to left-handers in the English batting line-up. Adil Rashid hasn’t let down his team or the selectors who named him in the squad and so, leaving him out will be harsh. James Vince has been called in as cover for Bairstow, but if Bairstow is fit to play as a batsman, Vince might well replace Pope in the line-up. Sam Curran, despite his complete performances at Edgbaston and Lord’s, might not return to the playing XI.
Possible England playing 11: 1 Joe Root (c), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Keaton Jennings, 4 James Vince, 5 Jonny Bairstow, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Chris Woakes, 8 Ben Stokes, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson
For the first time in Kohli’s Test captaincy tenure (38 Tests), India might play with the same XI for a second consecutive Test match subject to whether Ravichandran Ashwin is fit to bowl after feeling discomfort in the right hip area during the third Test. Prithvi Shaw and Hanuma Vihari have replaced Murali Vijay and Kuldeep Yadav in India’s 18-man squad, but they are unlikely to make the playing XI for the fourth Test.
Probable India playing 11: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 KL Rahul, 4 Cheteshwar Pujara, 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rishabh Pant, 7 Ravichandran Ashwin/Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Hardik Pandya, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
The batsmen remain the key to India’s overseas Test success. India now have a bowling attack who can take 20 wickets more often than not, but they need the cushion of runs (as in the third Test) to be aggressive in their line and length of attack. If the Indian batsman can carry on from where they left off at Trent Bridge, India will have a good chance of winning the fourth Test and leveling the series.