England vs India third Test: Kohli back fear, Stokes returns
England are favourites to win at Trent Bridge and seal the five-match series
The focus this week for England cricket fans has been on the fists of Ben Stokes but in India it’s been the back of Virat Kohli that been worrying the nation.
India’s golden boy was hampered by a bad back during the disastrous second Test defeat at Lord’s and there was deep concern in the tourists’ camp that Kohli might not be passed fit for the decisive third Test that starts tomorrow at Trent Bridge. With India already trailing England by two Tests to zero, defeat in Nottingham would hand the hosts victory in the five-Test rubber.
Happy hunting ground
England, buoyed by the inclusion of Stokes after he was found not guilty of affray in Tuesday, are strong favourites to win the Test Bridge Test, particularly as it’s long been a happy hunting ground for James Anderson. The ‘Burnley Express’ finds conditions conducive to his style of swing bowling and in nine Nottingham Tests he has taken 60 wickets at an average of 18.95 (his career average is 26.83).
Stuart Broad, a Nottinghamshire player, likes his home ground too. In 2015 he took 8-15 against Australia at Trent Bridge.
If India are to have any chance of winning the Test then they’ll need Kohli at his best. To date he has scored 240 runs in the two Tests, 150 more than the second highest, Hardik Pandya. Furthermore, the fact that no Indian batsman other than Kohli has scored a half-century so far in the series speaks volumes about the weakness of their batting line-up.
Kohli rings changes
Kohli took part in a training session at Trent Bridge on Thursday, including a short stint batting in the nets and a spot of slip catching. He was seen “feeling his back” at one moment but appeared to suffer no pain during the session.
According to the Hindustan Times, 20-year-old wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant will replace Dinesh Karthik behind the stumps for the third Test, and there could be the welcome return of Jasprit Bumrah, the young pace bowler who has been sidelined since fracturing his thumb in a T20 game against Ireland last month. The 24-year-old Bumrah made his Test debut earlier in the year, taking 14 wickets in three Tests against South Africa.
Will Stokes feature?
For England fans the selection conundrum surrounds Stokes. Former England captain turned BBC cricket pundit Michael Vaughan has expressed his surprise that the all-rounder hasn’t taken a break from the game following his court appearance, and if he is selected to play who will he oust from a side that demolished India so comprehensively at Lord’s?
In response to Vaughan’s comments, England head coach Trevor Bayliss explained why the decision to include Stokes in the side for Trent Bridge had been taken: “Myself, the management, the captain, Andy Flower [director of cricket], the board - everyone had a bit of a say and basically thought for his wellbeing it was good to get him back around the cricket,” said Bayliss.
But the Australian added there was no guarantee he would be named in the Test XI: “We’ll see how he is mentally as well as physically,” said Bayliss. “He’s not played for a couple of weeks. It’s a difficult decision whoever misses out, whether it’s Ben or anyone else.”
Although Bayliss gave short shrift to the idea that Stokes shouldn’t have been brought back into the squad following his acquittal, he did hint at an impending apology from the Durham star. “Something will be forthcoming,” he said, adding: “That’ll be up to Ben and his management team.”