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England search for redemption after the storm

Wisden India logo Wisden India 15-12-2016
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As England’s players – 3-0 down in the series – kicked a football around and then bowled at stumps set up on a strip 20 yards away from the pitch to be used for this game, it was easy to forget that this is a city devastated by a cyclone that passed through less three days earlier. The pitch looked hard and dry, and the outfield was green-baize smooth. The sun was beating down, and the ground staff busied themselves with last-minute preparations. Amid the chaos around, Chepauk seemed an oasis of calm.

But appearances can be deceptive. For England, this tour of India has been turbulent. After the disappointment of a drawn series in Bangladesh, they gave India a fright in Rajkot. Since then, however, they’ve been restricted to the odd good session, with India pulling away in every 50-50 situation. In Mohali and Mumbai, the last four Indian wickets added 213 and 267. Test matches and series turn on such numbers.

India are unlikely to tinker much ahead of the fifth and final Test that begins in Chennai on Friday (December 16). After 26 matches, dating back to the Rose Bowl in 2014, they might even play the same XI in consecutive matches. Ishant Sharma is back in the reckoning after his wedding, but it’s unlikely that Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be dropped after having taken five-fors in two of his last four Tests.

Photos: 'Unique' world records held by Indian cricketers

'Unique' world records held by Indian cricketers

On the batting front, Karun Nair has 17 runs from two innings. But a winning side can afford to indulge its young talents, and it would be a shock if he was to make way for Manish Pandey to make his debut. KL Rahul and M Vijay will get another opportunity to forge an effective combination at the top of the order, while the team management will want the lower order to show the same steel that has been in evidence right through the season.

England will be without Jimmy Anderson, whose four wickets in the series have cost 53 apiece. Anderson has soreness in the shoulder and ankle, and will not be risked. Stuart Broad, who hasn’t played since the second Test in Visakhapatnam, is likely to replace him.

Liam Dawson, who was playing in the Bangladesh Premier League for Rangpur Riders a fortnight ago, is in line for a Test debut, with England conscious of having been a spinner short in Mumbai. If he does play, either Chris Woakes or Jake Ball will make way.

Four English batsmen have made more than 300 runs in the series, and they’ve made five centuries to India’s seven. But four of them came in Rajkot, while Keaton Jennings’s debut hundred in Mumbai was relegated to a sideshow by the bowlers’ failure to wear India down. 

The last time England played at Chepauk, Sachin Tendulkar’s unbeaten 103 on the final day enthralled fans as India chased down 387. You have to go back to January 1985 for the last English win here, when 11 wickets from Neil Foster buttressed double-centuries from Graeme Fowler and Mike Gatting.

But like the encouraging display in Rajkot which has fast receded into the distance, that was a very long time ago.


India (likely): KL Rahul, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Karun Nair, R Ashwin, Parthiv Patel (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav.

England (likely): Alastair Cook (capt), Keaton Jennings, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Liam Dawson, Adil Rashid, Jake Ball, Stuart Broad.

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