Southampton: Having made a commendable comeback from the brink of a series defeat, India will look to increase their stranglehold on England and draw parity in the fourth Test, here on Thursday.
After a couple of defeats in the first two Tests (31 runs at Edgbaston) and (an innings defeat at the Lord's), men in blue produced a splendid all-round performance to win the third Test in Nottingham by 203 runs.
If India win to make it 2-2, the fifth Test at Kennington Oval becomes a must-win for both sides.
England head into the fourth Test with several tough decisions to make, chief among them whether to play Jonny Bairstow as a batsman, who is “desperate” to play even after fracturing a finger at Trent Bridge. Mohammed Shami has spoken of India’s plans to target Bairstow should he play, which adds spice to an already engrossing Test series.
India also have an injury concern in the form of R Ashwin, whose stiff groin restricted his bowling in the last Test. A green Ageas Bowl surface has raised eyebrows, for it gives India a big flip now that Jasprit Bumrah has returned with a bang.
It was at Southampton, famously, that England won the third Test against India four years ago to mount a resurgence that saw them come back from 0-1 to win the series 3-1. India will hope history does not repeat itself.
Indian pacers had a long batting stint, albeit Jasprit Bumrah didn't pad up at all. Instead, Umesh Yadav took his place along side Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami, hinting at a possible return. While it will be a surprising move, if so transpires, it will be influenced by prevalent conditions.
The wicket at Nottingham had a near-barren top surface, wherein Bumrah could get seam movement off the pitch as he did. In comparison, the Southampton wicket has a proper green tinge, hinting at more live grass, thus bringing Yadav into play.
While it remains to be seen if India will push through this change, there is also concern over R Ashwin's fitness.
Meanwhile, England have a few pressing issues to consider before this Test begins. A prime concern is the fitness of Jonny Bairstow, and whether to include him as specialist batsman but he has been cleared.
Pacer Chris Woakes is also being closely monitored owing to stress in his right quadriceps. He didn't practice on Tuesday and a decision will only be made ahead of the game. Sam Curran, who was left out in the previous game, can then expect to return to international duty.
India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Karun Nair, Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Hanuma Vihari, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.
England: Joe Root (Capt.), Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Jos Buttler (wk), Oliver Pope, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Sam Curran, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes, James Vince.
Pitch and conditions
It swings nicely at Ageas Bowl but batsmen will hope to get in and cash in on the favourable conditions. There is rain in the air in Southampton, but not too much; there might be interruptions, but not serious ones.
Stats and trivia
August 30-September 3, 2018
Start time: 11:00 local (10:00 GMT)