After taking a 1-0 lead early in the series, any notion of India going on to record just their second ever five-Test series win on foreign soil has since been crushed by two resounding defeats at the hands of a resurgent England side.
A series draw is now the best MS Dhoni’s dishevelled tourists can hope for if they can grab a win, but heading to the Oval, where they’ve only triumphed once – way back in 1971 – that feels highly unlikely.
What is more, India would have to turn around a dismal trend of failing to to win the final Test of a five-match away series for the first time in 12 attempts.
Although the hosts only need a drawn match to seal the series win, there’s no way Alastair Cook (within reason) will risk losing the momentum built by two revitalising Test victories.
It’s a cliché, but England were better in every department at Old Trafford in posting a solid 367 all-out before rattling through India twice to wrap up the game with an innings and two days to spare.
Even if Stuart Broad and his mangled boat race are deemed unfit, with Jimmy Anderson and Moeen Ali in such devastating form, and nearly all England’s batsmen bar maybe Sam Robson showing some form at the crease, India look beat.
Having swerved a ban to take part in his home Test, the king of the swingers promptly set about bamboozling India’s top order with the new ball (as he has all summer), picking up Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja for the sum total of zero runs.
Heading to south London Anderson will once again be armed with a rock-hard shiny cherry and in forecasted overcast conditions in Kennington, there is only one possible outcome likely.
Furthermore, Anderson now needs just eight wickets to break Sir Ian Botham’s all-time England Test haul before a nine month lay-off ensues, so what greater incentive for the 32-year-old?
Ian Bell is one of the senior players who has shown his critics he still has plenty to offer England at Test level, and is still the most stylish batsman within the home ranks.
But style is nothing without substance and since a shaky start at Lords Bell has duly delivered with 167, the highest England knock of the summer at Southampton, before adding another 58 at Old Trafford.
In three Oval Tests against India the Warwickshire man has scored 365 runs – the most of any England batsman against this opposition at this ground – averaging 121.66 to date.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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