The Oval, London
September 7 to 11, 15:30 IST
Live on SPN, streaming on SonyLiv
The main picture
The stakes remain high even though the series has been decided and the fifth Test is only a formality. Alastair Cook announcing his retirement after the fourth Test has contributed to an increase in the stakes and, also, India will aim to put respectability to the series scoreline by beating England in the fifth Test and finishing the series 3-2 and not 4-1 or 3-1.
The Southampton Test match will remain one of the exciting, competitive Tests ever played, with the pendulum swinging in the direction of both teams and England finally landing the knockout blow on the fourth afternoon to retain the Pataudi Trophy. From India’s perspective, the familiar problems remain and, in what was always going to be a defining year for Virat Kohli and co., they have now come second-best in for a second consecutive away tour. Whether they put that disappointment behind them and have the fight to leave a long tour of England on a high will be one of the aspects to watch out for.
Conditions at The Oval have historically been said to favour sub-continental teams more than England because of the relatively dry nature of the pitch. But England, having aced a similar test at the Ageas Bowl, where they beat India in conditions more familiar to the visitor, will be confident of trumping Kohli and his men again with the ammunition provided by the off-spin of Moeen Ali, in particular.
England’s bowling attack, with Stuart Broad boasting subtle variations (the off and leg cutters) for the conditions on offer and Ben Stokes’s dual threat of hitting the pitch and getting the ball to move by pitching it up, is the more complete of the two. India’s pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami have toiled hard and, at times, out-bowled their English counterparts. They are in the top five wicket-takers in this Test series, but the Indian batsmen’s failure to post substantial scores on the board hasn’t helped the bowlers’ cause one bit. And the cliche of “needing to take 20 wickets to win Test matches” hasn’t come to pass for India because of the batting failures.
England’s lower-order batsmen, led by Sam Curran and Jos Buttler (in that order) have made the difference to the final equations in two of the four Tests so far. From both teams’ perspective, runs or lack of it from the lower-order may well dictate the result at The Oval as well.
India vs England 5th Test pitch report and weather forecast
The pitch at The Oval is normally good for batting, the Tests played here have tended to be high-scoring and, as aforementioned, its relatively dry nature means the spinners might have a decisive role to play again, following the fourth Test.
The weather forecast says that the second and third days of the Test might have rain, with the other three days being clear and sunny for the most part.
India vs England 5th Test playing XI
James Vince has dropped out of the squad for the fifth Test, but the other 13 players who were named for the fourth Test remain the same. Chris Woakes missed the fourth Test with a thigh injury and if he has recovered, he might replace Adil Rashid, who lacked the cutting edge in Southampton. Otherwise, England’s playing XI is unlikely to change. Whether Jonny Bairstow takes over as wicketkeeper remains to be seen as well, having fielded the entirety of the fourth Test with a strapping on his injured left middle finger.
Probable England playing 11: 1 Joe Root (c), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Keaton Jennings, 4 Moeen Ali, 5 Jonny Bairstow, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Ben Stokes, 8 Sam Curran, 9 Adil Rashid/Chris Woakes, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson
On the other hand, India’s playing XI is likely to have a couple of changes at least. Ravichandran Ashwin didn’t seem to be fully fit during the fourth Test and he might make way for Ravindra Jadeja, having also struggled with the ball in Southampton. At the top of the order, the team management will be brave to hand a debut to Prithvi Shaw at the expense of KL Rahul, who has struggled with the bat and made only 113 runs in eight innings this series.
Possible India playing XI: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 KL Rahul/Prithvi Shaw, 4 Cheteshwar Pujara, 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk), 7 Ravichandran Ashwin/Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Hardik Pandya, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Despite the fifth Test being a dead rubber, the two teams still have a lot to play for: England will aim to give their highest-ever run scorer in Test cricket a victorious farewell, while India’s aim will be to narrow the margin of series defeat. Moeen Ali deservedly won the man of the match award at the Ageas Bowl and remains a major threat with his off-spin to India, while England’s lower-order batting (batsmen from Nos. 8 to 11), which has contributed 411 runs in four Tests so far, boosts the team’s winning chances. From India’s perspective, they need to negate these two aspects of their host to potentially sign off with a win.