SOUTHAMPTON: England will hope an altered side can tame a resurgent India in the fourth Test at Southampton starting on Thursday.
Joe Root, the England captain, announced two changes on Wednesday to the team that suffered a 203-run defeat in the third Test at Trent Bridge.
Off-spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali and left-arm swing bowler Sam Curran have replaced top-order batsman Ollie Pope and pace-bowling all-rounder Chris Woakes, out with a thigh problem.
Meanwhile, Jos Buttler will keep wicket instead of Jonny Bairstow after deputising when the Yorkshireman broke a finger behind the stumps at Trent Bridge.
But Bairstow has been passed fit to play as a specialist batsman.
That meant there was no England recall for James Vince on the Hampshire captain´s home ground.
´More than capable´
Root, explaining why Bairstow was playing as a batsman, with England white-ball gloveman Buttler keeping wicket, told reporters at Southampton on Wednesday: “It was a medical call. He (Bairstow) didn´t seem fit to be able to keep 100 percent in a Test match for five days, and that was the call that was made.”
As for Bairstow´s promotion in a reshaped top order, Root said: “I think he´s more than capable of batting in the top four. He´s in fine form, he´s had a fantastic 12 months home and away.”
Meanwhile, an innings of 219 and figures of eight for 89 for Worcestershire against Yorkshire saw Ali recalled on a ground where he took six for 67 against India in England´s 266-run win during the corresponding Test four years ago.
“He´s in fine form; he´s gone back to his county — and what you want from international players is for them to go back and prove a point,” said Root.
That 2014 Test also saw Alastair Cook end a run of low scores with an innings of 95 and England would be delighted if their all-time leading Test run-scorer put another bad trot behind him in similar fashion this week.
As one Surrey 20-year-old in Pope was dropped, in part because England wanted greater bowling depth, another one in Curran returned — 12 days after he was left out at Trent Bridge after the return of Ben Stokes, despite being man-of-the-match in the first Test at Edgbaston.
“Five games in a short space of time you are going to need to make changes,” said Root.
“Sam went back and played for Surrey and now has another opportunity.”
Root was confident England could put last week´s thumping loss behind them as they went in search of a win that would give them an unassailable 3-1 led in a five-match series.
“I think one of our big strengths as a squad is our strength of character – and at home in particular, we´re very good at bouncing back after difficult weeks,” he said.
Anderson eyes McGrath mark
James Anderson is on the verge of becoming the most successful pace bowler in the history of Test cricket.
Anderson has an England-record 557 wickets in Tests and is now just six shy of retired Australia great Glenn McGrath´s tally of 563 — the most taken by any paceman at this level.
“He is a rightfully right up there with the likes of Glenn McGrath as one the greats of the game,” said Root of Anderson. “He is always going to ask difficult questions of batters.”
While England chop and change India, trying to come from 2-0 down to win a five-match Test series, something achieved just once, by a Don Bradman-inspired Australia against England in 1936/37, are set to be unaltered.
With India captain Virat Kohli declaring off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was “good to go” despite a groin strain at Trent Bridge, the tourists could field the same side two Tests in row fo the first time in his reign as skipper.
“Seeing the way things are right now, we don´t feel we need to change anything,” said Kohli, who scored exactly 200 runs, including a century, at Trent Bridge, having achieved the same feat at Edgbaston.