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Stokes replaces Curran; India look for Wanderers spirit

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India make final Trent Bridge preparations (0:36)

Rishabh Pant and Jasprit Bumrah were in focus with the visitors 0-2 down in the series against England (0:36)

Big picture

India came to England with a better chance of a series win on this tour than any other in recent memory. They were up against a vulnerable home side that had lost at least one Test in 10 of its last 11 home series; a side that last won an away Test nearly two years ago. There was an almighty heatwave pointing to a summer more Indian than English, although August is not late enough to qualify for one. About five days' worth of cricket later, they are gasping to stay afloat.

Suddenly the clouds rolled in, the Dukes started swinging, rain arrived at opportune times, the toss went the hosts' way, and in these conditions, England showed they had a better bowling attack and batting line-up than India. Slip catching aside, England have played this efficiently, bowling to build pressure not to produce magic deliveries. The magic shows on the scoreboard, with four India innings ended in 212.4 overs. They might not even need to rest their lead fast bowlers as was expected. To add to the riches they have Ben Stokes back too, who will replace Sam Curran, the Man of the Match from two Tests ago.

For India, who have now crossed 200 only once in their last nine innings in England - that too thanks to a freakish innings by Virat Kohli - this situation is not too dissimilar to the one in South Africa after the first two Tests. There they found the courage and the skill - and the luck to win the toss, which has deserted them again - to win one back. If anything, the situation is a little worse. Their best bowler in these conditions is still not available and is likely to miss the whole series, Jasprit Bumrah might be back, but their batsmen are low on confidence.

Coach Ravi Shastri sounded as positive as he did just before the Johannesburg Test, which like this press conference where he has denied the existence of a negative bone in the Indian team, was the first time Shastri had addressed the media on the South Africa tour. India need nothing less than the spirit of Johannesburg to stay alive in this series.

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1:47

Root explains tough Stokes-Curran swap

The England captain says the decision to leave Curran out has been one of his most difficult as a captain

Form guide

England WWWLD
India LLWWL

In the spotlight

The only man among the specialist batsmen who can say he deserves to be in the XI has a bad back. Virat Kohli will play, though. He might not be able to field in the slips, and it also remains to be seen whether he can still walk at the bowlers or lunge onto his front foot. At Lord's, he didn't seem too keen to move forward. His first-innings dismissal was peculiar not because he looked to play to leg but because his trigger movement was only across and not forward. However he scores them, India desperately need his runs.

Flying quietly under the radar is former England captain Alastair Cook, who has two hundreds in his last 22 Tests and both of them on real batting beauties. By all accounts the brand-new ball has been easier to bat against than the 15-over-old one. Unless R Ashwin is bowling with it. Cook's job has to be to make sure he is the set batsman in when the ball starts swinging around that 15-over mark and to see that period through even if he doesn't score a hundred. So far he has lasted 8.5, 3.4 and 8.2 overs.

Team news

Joe Root has made probably "the toughest selection call" as a Test captain on the eve of the match. England have resisted the temptation of having an XI with Sam Curran at No. 9. For that to happen, Stokes would have replaced Adil Rashid, who wasn't required to bat or bowl at Lord's. Instead Curran misses out after Chris Woakes made a good case for himself with his all-round contributions.

"I think it is difficult to go into a Test match without a spinner," Root said. "You don't want to be left short and not have that option, and you want a nice balanced attack."

England 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Keaton Jennings, 3 Joe Root (capt.), 4 Ollie Pope, 5 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 6 Jos Buttler, 7 Ben Stokes, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson.

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1:36

Chopra: 'India need an extra batsman to address their batting crisis'

Aakash Chopra picks Karun Nair ahead of Hardik Pandya, and brings in Rishabh Pant as wicketkeeeper

There are strong hints from the India nets that Rishabh Pant, the attacking wicketkeeper-batsman, is likely to make his debut at the expense of Dinesh Karthik, who has averaged five in three Tests on his return.

India have admitted they made a mistake by playing two spinners at Lord's, which means either Umesh Yadav or Bumrah should be back in the XI. Bumrah, who has been on the sidelines with a fractured thumb, is a shoo-in if his thumb has healed sufficiently.

The openers remain a conundrum with M Vijay under pressure this time after his pair at Lord's. There has been a lot of debate over the utility of Hardik Pandya, who hasn't had much to do with the ball and when he has, he has been strictly okay as a third seamer. The problem here is not Pandya but the team management, which has failed to read the conditions consistently. On a flat pitch, Pandya is a handy fourth seamer, but they have been playing him as a fourth seamer when not required and as a third seamer in a Test that lasted two days. His batting, not his stronger suit, has ironically emerged as second-best behind captain Kohli and on par with R Ashwin. It will be a tough call to decide between Pandya and an extra specialist batsman, one that will require reading of the conditions, which hasn't been this side's forte.

India (possible): 1 M Vijay/Shikhar Dhawan, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt.), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rishabh Pant/Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 R Ashwin, 8 Hardik Pandya/Karun Nair, 9 Jasprit Bumrah/Umesh Yadav, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Mohammed Shami

Pitch and conditions

That England have named Rashid in their XI is a strong indication about the pitch. England are not expecting a crazy seamer. The pitch doesn't look overly green from afar, not by English standards anyway. Indications are it will live up to Trent Bridge's reputation of being a slow seamer.

Stats and trivia

  • India's top three are averaging 9.83 in this series, their worst in series of two Tests or longer. Not too far behind, on No. 4, is the 15.5 in South Africa earlier this year.

  • Trent Bridge is one of the rare grounds where Stuart Broad has scored more runs than Alastair Cook, 389 to 351. Although Cook took his only Test wicket - Ishant Sharma, four years ago - it is not his favourite venue. He averages 22 here, and his top-score is 50.

  • Broad needs 12 runs to become only the fifth man in the 400-wicket club to also have scored 3000 runs. Those ahead of him are Shane Warne, Kapil Dev, Shaun Pollock and Richard Hadlee.

  • One of that 15-member 400-wicket club, Broad's mate James Anderson is not likely to threaten the 3000-run mark, but is only 11 wickets shy of becoming the leading wicket-taker among fast bowlers. Only Glenn McGrath's 563 strikes are ahead of him.

  • At Edgbaston, both sides dropped four catches each. While it is near impossible to calculate the damage caused - partnerships are formed, momentum is lost, bowlers get tired - the reprieved batsmen went on to cost England 154 runs, and India 86.

  • Ishant Sharma is five short of 250 wickets. Only Jacques Kallis, quite understandably, has taken longer to get there. Among others who bowled more regularly than Kallis, Daniel Vettori is the current slowest, who took his 250th wicket in his 81st Test, three fewer than what Ishant has played already.

Quotes

"I'm not concerned about it at all. We have some very talented players in our top order, some exciting young players and some good experience as well so I think a big strength of ours is we bat low down and they keep coming at you and it gives us a great opportunity to keep applying pressure and drive us on even if we don't get a good start."
England captain Joe Root is not losing sleep over low returns from the openers

"The only conversation we've had is that the only option is to win this game and nothing else."
India captain Virat Kohli