By Neil Leverett

  • India win Third Test versus England at Trent Bridge by 203 runs
  • Tourists reduce series arrears to 2-1 down with two tests to play
  • Fourth Test begins at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton next Thursday
NOTTINGHAM, UK – Following England’s defeat in the Third Test as India reduced arrears to 2-1 in the series, what did we learn at Trent Bridge with two Tests remaining?

 

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Rejuvenated tourists back in series

After a narrow defeat at Edgbaston to open the series and then a resounding innings loss via unfavourable weather conditions at Lords, India are back in the game.

At 2-0 down with three Tests to play, for the tourists to bounce back at Trent Bridge, merely serves to underline why Virat Kohli’s men are the number one ranked test side in cricket right now.

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Indeed, it was the Indian skipper who once more drove the Men in Blue forward to a vital win in Nottingham. Assisted by Ajinkya Rahane’s 81 in the first innings and Cheteshwar Pujara’s 72 when India came out to beat for the second time, the tourists eased home.

As both Hardik Pandya and the returning Jasprit Bumrah took five-for apiece the 203-run victory over the hosts was complete and injects new life into a test series that appeared to be waning, with the momentum having now firmly swung in the direction on India ahead of next week’s trip to Southampton for the Fourth Test.

 

Kohli remains untouchable

Testament to the character of Kohli, India’s talisman brushed off disappointment in missing out on his second ton of the series having been bowled by Adil Rashid for 97, by going on to complete his ton in the Indian second innings.

Having notched 440 runs in the series thus far, the 29-year-old is 234 ahead of his nearest rival in Jonny Bairstow this summer and having racked up his 23rd Test century, Kohli moves level with compatriot and former great Virender Sehwag, Javed Miandad, Kevin Pietersen, Justin Langer and former Australian skipper Steven Smith.

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Despite the latter having endured one of the most difficult few months of his career in the wake of ‘sandpaper gate’, Smith was always regarded as arguably the best batsman in the game today.

For Kohli not only to have drawn level with the Australian – who continues to serve a ban – but to do so on notoriously difficult English soil then, has surely confirmed Kohli as now the number one man at the crease and in many ways is currently untouchable.

 

Root holds captaincy burden

As his opposite number flourishes having finally conquered the English test arena, Joe Root continues to flounder with the captaincy of his country.

Scoring 16 and 13 respectively at Trent Bridge, the Yorkshireman continues to struggle with the bat – arguably Root’s finest asset – after shrewd guidance in the opening Test and winning the toss at Lords.

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Regardless of his own form however, Root firmly expects his side to fight back and knows his side are still in the driving seat. Speaking to BBC Sport, Root said:

 

“We’re in the driving seat as far as the series goes – we have to remember that,” said Root.

“I’m expecting the guys to go to Southampton and hopefully take the opportunity to wrap up the series.”

 

Third Test selection queries

For England, having surrendered the impetus in the series, questions have once more again risen over selections in Nottingham by the English hierarchy.

Having had Ben Stokes unavailable at Lords due to his on-going trial for affray, the return of the Durham all-rounder having been cleared was a no-brainer, but at the expense of the Sam Curran – one of England’s rising stars in the game – was a questionable call by both Ed Smith and Andrew Strauss.

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Some might argue that there was simply no room for a sixth bowler in the XI, but the absence of the Surrey number seven who impressed on his debut leaves the ECB open to criticism.

As Curran himself returned to his county to play domestically, hosts England are still in relative charge of proceedings this summer, but with an Indian side with their tails now up, there must be case to bring Curran back into the fold.

 

Could Woakes or Pope be sacrificed?

If the 20-year-old medium pacer returns at the Ageas Bowl, who could make way? As documented, with the presence of Rashid, Stokes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Chris Woakes in the England XI, options are limited.

Rashid has been a vital cog in the hosts’ arsenal this summer, and as one of only two realistic spin options alongside skipper Root is unlikely to be eschewed out of the side.

Woakes meanwhile seems a more viable alternative to make way, but he too has form after his maiden Test century in London a fortnight ago and took four wickets also.

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That leaves Ollie Pope. Having played at number four at Trent Bridge seeing Root move up the order with his issues at three, Pope has had a decent cameo in his first games at international level but it could be him who moves aside for his team-mate Curran at county level.

Whilst England still hold a slender 2-1 lead in the series, Indian resurgence threatens to spoil the England party in their back yard. It makes selection for next week of even greater importance, knowing a win in Southampton would topple the number one – and cricketing mad – nation in the world and send a message globally that England are far from a spent force in Test cricket.

The Fourth Test between England and India begins on Thursday 30th August at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton.

 

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