Swing and seam test awaits under-fire India at Nottingham

Down 2-0 in the five-Test series, Virat Kohli & Co. will have a task on its hands of reversing the slide in the third Test against England.

Eye on the ball: Virat Kohli (in picture) and his team will be attempting a difficult turnaround.   -  AP

There is no escaping Brian Clough’s legacy in Nottingham. There is a bronze statue of the late football manager in the centre of town, Clough in his familiar pose, arms aloft. A part of the A52, a busy road that cuts through the region, is called the Brian Clough Way. The City Ground, just across the road from Trent Bridge, has a stand named in his honour. Clough is revered in these parts because he took little, unfashionable Nottingham Forest from the Second Division to European Cup glory. Not once but twice. And in successive years. It was beyond unthinkable.

Virat Kohli's men will seek to channel some of Clough’s spirit as they attempt what history tells us is a nearly-impossible turnaround. India arrives for the third Test at Trent Bridge 2-0 down, a position from which only one team has ever won a Test series — Don Bradman’s Australia in the 1936-37 Ashes.

India left Lord’s battered and bruised, having been thumped in — effectively — two days. Its two innings lasted a total of 82.2 overs, the batsmen undone yet again by high-class swing and seam bowling. The scoreline and the manner of the defeat in the second Test has triggered a torrent of criticism: as much as Kohli and his lot say they do not read the news, they cannot but be aware.

Pant, Bumrah likely to play

India will make changes. Young Rishabh Pant looks likely to make his Test debut, replacing Dinesh Karthik behind the stumps. Karthik has struggled for runs, making scores of 0, 20, 1 and 0 in his four innings. To be fair, none of the other batsmen — Kohli excepted — have covered themselves in glory either, but it is worth giving Pant a chance. The 20-year-old from Delhi has built a reputation for himself as a powerful striker of the ball and last month scored three half-centuries from four first-class innings on India A’s tour of England. He is an exciting prospect.

Having been declared 'not guilty' of affray by a jury at Bristol Crown Court, Ben Stokes will feature in the third Test against India. Photo: Getty Images   -  Getty Images

Trent Bridge has favoured seam over spin in the recent past: in matches since 2010, pace bowlers have averaged 25.67 here, and spinners 49.51. A delightfully quaint, old ground with a pavilion dating back to the 1880s, it is one of England’s favourite venues, the home team having won six of the last eight Tests played here. The place has a reputation for swing and if there is grass on the pitch — as there was on match-eve — there might be a case for fielding six batsmen, although that would be an extreme step.

Read: Positive mindset need of the hour for India after Lord's horror show

Kohli has never disguised his admiration for Jasprit Bumrah and will be pleased to have him available for selection again. The Gujarat pacer could feature on Saturday in Kuldeep Yadav’s stead, with Umesh Yadav staying on the bench.

This is usually the point in a series when the wheels come off a besieged touring party and it will need a significant effort for India to bounce back. Its batsmen have floundered and now need to battle — for not just the team's cause but also the sake of their own futures.

Joe Root, in contrast, has had to deal with headaches of the good sort, as players and coaches often like to say. He has decided to draft Ben Stokes straight into the eleven — announced on Friday — at the expense of Sam Curran. There have been a lot of doubts expressed over Stokes’s mental readiness for this fixture. But he does not seem the sort to be bogged down by such matters. The prospect of a series win will spur him and England on. India is fighting for survival but this, as a short dash to a nearby football ground will inform the players, is the land of the impossible.

The teams
  • England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope, Adil Rashid, Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes.
  • India (from): Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, K. L. Rahul, M. Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Mohd. Shami, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, and Jasprit Bumrah.

Match Officials
  • On-Field Umpires: Chris Gaffaney and Marais Erasmus; Match Referee: Jeff Crowe; Third Umpire: Aleem Dar; Fourth Umpire: Rob Bailey.