Fourth Test preview: England v India

England

England and India head into the fourth Test at Old Trafford with the series level at one all, but with rain forecast for all five days, it will be a scramble to take advantage of the expected pacey track.

England and India head into the fourth Test at Old Trafford with the series level at one all, but with rain forecast for all five days, it will be a scramble to take advantage of the expected pacey track.

England go into the game on the back of their first Test win in over a year, having won the third Test in Southampton by a convincing margin of 266 runs. In that match, all the senior players came to the party at last, with Ian Bell and Alastair Cook finally getting some runs.

The batting order is not an issue this time, a rare occurrence it must be said, as Gary Ballance is in fine fettle, while Joe Root is also seeing the ball well. Top and middle order: sorted.

The all-rounder and fast bowling berth is another story though, with Chris Jordan under performing after replacing the also-lacklustre Ben Stokes. The question is, will the selectors stick with Jordan and a winning side?

That seems likely, even though Steve Finn has been called into the squad. The Middlesex man has been in great form since finding his action again, after being sent home from Australia late last year, and has been training with the squad in the background for a while.

He has been called to replace Liam Plunkett, who has an ankle injury, though the latter did not play at the Rose Bowl. As such, Finn could replace Chris Woakes in the starting XI, though Woakes wasn't particularly poor in Southampton.

Of course, there is also the chance that Stuart Broad is not fully fit, given his constant knee pain, as he looked a bit hobbly by the end in Southampton. If he's rested, then Finn could play.

India, meanwhile, face a number of changes, from top to bottom. Opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan has not scored a half ton in the series yet, top-scoring with 37, and was not overly involved in training in the build up to this game.

As such, veteran Gautam Gambhir could finally get a recall to open alongside Murali Vijay, having not played a Test since 2012. Vijay has been India's best batsman so far, along with Ajinkya Rahane and, amusing, fast bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

It will be worrying for India that their marquee batsmen, namely Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, have not fired at all, with Kohli hilariously having less runs in the series than number nine Bhuvi Kumar.

There is also speculation that Rohit Sharma or Ravi Jadeja could make way for Ravichandran Ashwin, with the former more likely. Rohit was played in the third Test as a sixth batsman but did not impress, and the calls for spinner Ashwin to play got louder and louder. Ashwin has not played a Test this year.

The pace bowling department is still without Ishant Sharma, who is injured, but Bhuvi has seemingly recovered from an ankle niggle, which will be a big relief to skipper MS Dhoni, as the medium pacer has been impressive with bat and ball.

As for Pankaj Singh, the merry-go-round in the bowling department is set to continue. Pankaj made his debut in the previous Test, conceded 0/179 (the worst figures in a Test on dayboo, ever) but was actually not terrible, just terribly unlucky.

As such, with Stuart Binny also consigned to the rubbish…binny, fast(er) bowler Varun Aaron could be the next to try his luck. With the track set to be quicker and bouncier than the previous venues, he could hit the jackpot in terms of selection timing.

Off the field, the ICC have finally drawn a line under the Anderson/Jadeja spat from Trent Bridge, refusing to give in to the BCCI's 'nudge nudge, wink wink' letter about launching an appeal. Anderson's not guilty, Jadeja's not guilty. We shall see how that plays out in the middle. Banter ahead!

<b>Key Men</b><br>For England, number three <b>Gary Ballance</b> will still be on high alert, given both Sam Robson and Alastair Cook's tendency to get out early. He's got two tons in the series so far, and will be keen to add a third.

For the visitors, seamer <b>Bhuvneshwar Kumar</b> will shoulder the wicket-taking expectations. The bovine-eyed swing bowler has 15 wickets so far, second only to James Anderson who has 16, and three half centuries. This deck will be suited to his talents.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2014: Third Test: England won by 266 runs in Southampton<br>2014: Second Test: India won by 95 runs at Lord's<br>2014: First Test: Match drawn in Nottingham<br>2012: Fourth Test: Match drawn in Nagpur<br>2012: Third Test: England won by seven wickets in Kolkata

<b>Squads</b><br>England: Sam Robson, Alastair Cook, Gary Ballance, Moeen Ali, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Steve Finn, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Chris Jordan, Chris Woakes

India: Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Stuart Binny, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron, Gautam Gambhir, Ravi Ashwin, Ishwar Pandey, Pankaj Singh, Wriddhiman Saha

<b>Dates:</b> 7-11 August<br><b>Morning session:</b> 11:00-13:00 (10:00-12:00 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 13:40-15:40 (14:40-16:40 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 16:00-18:00 (15:00-17:00 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Rod Tucker, Marais Erasmus<br><b>Third umpire:</b> To be confirmed<br><b>Match referee:</b> Ranjan Madugalle

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