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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

India vs England 5th Test: Anderson, Rahane among doubts

England’s premier fast bowler could be in need of a rest at the end of a long, hard series. India is likely weighing up a similar decision about its star paceman.

By: AP |
September 8, 2021 7:23:55 pm
James Anderson celebrating after bowling out Ajinkya Rahane on the final day of the first Test. (BCCI)

England’s vice-captain is back in the team. India’s vice-captain could be out.

England’s premier fast bowler could be in need of a rest at the end of a long, hard series. India is likely weighing up a similar decision about its star paceman.

There’s plenty for Joe Root and Virat Kohli, the respective captains of England and India, to contemplate heading into the fifth match of a turbulent test series that will conclude at Old Trafford on Friday.

India leads 2-1 and is on the brink of another huge test series victory on foreign soil — after coming from behind to beat Australia away over December and January. So is now the time to Kohli to drop his long-time deputy, Ajinkya Rahane?

There’s certainly a case for it, with Rahane scoring just 109 runs — at an average of 15.57 — in seven innings so far this series. He looked bereft of confidence in making 14 and then a duck in the fourth test at the Oval, which India won on Day 5.

Rahane even found himself coming in down the order at No. 6, with allrounder Ravindra Jadeja promoted above him.

Hanuma Vihari and Suryakumar Yadav are options to replace Rahane.

Jasprit Bumrah might be a tougher call for Kohli. After all, it was the 24-year-old fast bowler who set up the victory in the fourth test Monday with an inspired spell of 2-6 off 6 overs to finish with figures of 2-27 off 27 overs, making him India’s highest wicket-taker of the series.

He has played in all four tests, though, and given the sharp turnaround of the matches — as well as the proximity of the IPL, which resumes on Sept. 19, and next month’s World Twenty20 — leaving Bumrah out has to be a consideration for Kohli.

Mohammed Shami, left out of the fourth test, would be an obvious replacement for Bumrah.

England is seeking to stop India claim a first test series win on these shores since 2007 — and just a fourth in its history — and will welcome back Jos Buttler for the match played on his home ground of Old Trafford in Manchester.

Buttler was absent at the Oval so he could be present at the birth of his second child but has returned to the squad, and Root confirmed on a video call Wednesday he would be recalled immediately to the starting lineup.

That means either Jonny Bairstow, who took the gloves for the fourth test, or Ollie Pope will have to drop out. It’s a big vote of confidence in Buttler, who has averaged 14.40 with the bat but is a key voice in the England team.

“He’s the vice-captain of this team. He is integral to what we’re about,” Root said. “I know his output in terms of runs this series hasn’t been as high as he would have liked, or as we would like, but we know what a great player he is.

“I think Jonny knew exactly what the scenario was when given the opportunity to keep last week.”

For another Lancashire player, Jimmy Anderson, playing all five tests in a series at the age of 39 might be too much, especially given how overworked he was at the Oval. He was asked to bowl 33 overs in the second innings when little was left in the tank of England’s record wicket taker in tests.

“You have to trust the medical advice that’s been given,” Root said, “and speak to the guys who understand the science behind this, and also speak to the players.

“You don’t want to go into a test match playing someone under the risk of injury. You also don’t want to go into a test match and someone goes down injured and you’ve got one less bowler at your disposal.”

England must also decide whether to include Jack Leach as a second spin option alongside Moeen Ali, who Root confirmed as the team’s No. 1 spinner.

England is looking to avoid losing two home test series in the same summer, having been beaten 1-0 by New Zealand in June.

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