England bounced back from their dismal fifth day defeat to India at Lord’s to level up their series against India during the third Test at Headingley, dominating from the first session to the last to complete an innings and 76 run win. It was the latest chapter in a series that is becoming more and more exciting to watch unfold, and this week’s fourth Test should be fascinating to watch unfold.
The stakes could hardly be higher, with everything all to play for in the series, but here are some of the biggest storylines to follow over the course of the match.
Can Joe Root Become The Greatest?
Joe Root has, without a doubt, been the best player on the planet over the course of 2021, enjoying a scarcely believable run of form over the course of the year so far. Despite struggling for form throughout 2019 and 2020, Joe Root began the year with a century and double century against Sri Lanka, before following that up with another double century against India in Chennai.
Carrying the weight of the team on his shoulders, Root has stepped up time and time again for England during the Test summer so far, scoring three centuries in the first three matches this series. His 507 runs so far have come with a staggering strike rate of 61.38, and his average of 126.75 is absolutely miles clear of KL Rahul in second with an average of 42.00, showcasing just how much the Yorkshireman has dominated batting proceedings this summer.
England’s Third Test win was Root’s 27th as captain of the team, making him the most successful captain in the nation’s history, and his ability to lead from the front, despite possessing a team far from vintage, shows just how strong a character he truly is. Root’s six centuries throughout 2021 is only the third case of an England player hitting this many centuries in a calendar year, and there’s every chance the Yorkshireman will continue to smash the records as the year rolls on.
Ashwin To Get His Chance?
When England toured India earlier this year, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin won the Player of the Series with a whopping 32 wickets, and a second innings century in the 2nd Test match at Chennai. The talented all-rounder has taken thirty five wicket hauls over the course of his career, and is capable of swinging the cricket betting odds on his own when the conditions suit.
However, throughout the first three Test matches this summer, India have not called upon Ashwin even once. Ravindra Jadeja has so far been drafted in as India’s chief spinner for the tour, taking just two wickets so far but scoring 133 runs at an average of 26.
With India’s bowling attack struggling throughout the third Test and the frailties in their batting lineup being exposed throughout the series so far (with one noticeable exception at Lord’s), there’s every chance the fourth Test at the Oval could be the time Ashwin is chosen to spin India to victory.
Kohli Needs A Score
Captain of all three formats for India and one of the most gifted batsmen of his generation, Virat Kohli is the cricket equivalent of Cristiano Ronaldo. A titanic figure on and off the field, his grit, fight and determination to win has turned this Indian side into one of the most robust teams the game has seen in recent times, and his talismanic skill carries with it the potential to flip any game on its head.
However, despite being an undeniable great of the game, some of Kohli’s old frailties in England have been exposed again so far this summer. Despite absolutely dominating the last series in England back in 2018 with 593 runs, Kohli has so far only managed to score 124 runs at an average of 24.80 during this summer.
Given the form of Joe Root, Kohli’s failures with the bat have been exposed even more and the returning issues with his posture against the swinging Duke’s ball now means that the Indian captain is heading into the Oval Test with some serious pressure hanging over him.