Third Test preview: England v India

England

One would think that Jos Buttler will be the most nervous man in England on Sunday morning, ahead of the third Test against India, but that is more likely to be captain Alastair Cook, who must end his Annus Horribilis and soon.

One would think that Jos Buttler will be the most nervous man in England on Sunday morning, ahead of the third Test against India, but that is more likely to be captain Alastair Cook, who must end his Annus Horribilis and soon.

The sides go into the match at the Rose Bowl in Southampton with India holding a one-nil series lead after their win at Lord's. All eyes will be on Cook, who was seen training alone on Friday in his quest to break his year-long century-less streak.

The skipper has been bombarded with calls to quit the captaincy and focus on his batting, but he has refused to do so. If the side records another defeat, he may not have the luxury of deciding his own fate, and could get the 'tap on the shoulder' he spoke of.

Not many people who love cricket, neutrals and India fans included, will wish another failure on the opener, though India supporters will draw the line at a 'gritty' half century. Southampton is a good batting venue, so if he can't do it here…

Otherwise, Buttler will be in the spotlight as the major change to the side. He will be making his Test debut in place of wicketkeeper Matt Prior, who has opted to have Achilles surgery rather than continue the pain of his own dire run of form.

The calls for Buttler to be in the side, no matter Prior's injuries, have been loud, and there will be pressure on him to prove his supporters right. But the Lancashire man has warned that while he can help England, he's not a fix-all solution.

And lastly, England will need to make a decision about their fast-bowling all-rounder slot. Will Ben Stokes, with three ducks in a row, keep his place, or will Chris Jordan get the chance to add to his two Test caps. We suspect the latter.

India, meanwhile must contemplate their opening pairing, as well as the fourth seamer spot. With Shikhar Dhawan out of sorts, there is talk of veteran batsman Gautam Gambhir finally getting a recall after a year and a half in the wilderness.

The other change is set to see all-rounder Stuart Binny make way for batsman Rohit Sharma. Binny made his debut in the first Test and did well with the bat, but in the second Test was largely anonymous. India look set to go with the specialist batsman instead.

How this game will go in terms of stats is tough to say, given there has only been one Test here before, in 2011. It was a draw against Sri Lanka, and since then England have lost three out of their last four ODIs at the ground.

<b>Key Men</b><br>For England, number three Gary Ballance will be key, especially if Cook fails again. Ballance has proven to be a superb fit at first drop, though he's practically been playing as an opener, given how early he's come in. He's scored two tons and two 70s in his past four Tests.

The hosts will continue to look to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, with both ball and bat. The fast bowler is one of the top run getters in the series, pulling off a string of half tons in tail-end resistances, and also shone with the ball at Lord's.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><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<br>2012: Second Test: England won by 10 wickets in Mumbai

<b>Squads</b><br>England: Sam Robson, Alastair Cook, Gary Ballance, Moeen Ali, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Liam Plunkett, 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> 27-31 July<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> David Boon

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