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England recall Curran, Moeen in bid to repel India's surge

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Compton: England top-order lacks backbone (5:46)

Aakash Chopra and Nick Compton discuss the two-spinner strategy and overall team composition ahead of the fourth Test (5:46)

Big Picture

This series feels very alive. India are coming off one of their finest wins outside Asia while England have previously shown that when stung by defeat, and criticism, they have it in them to bounce back on home soil. The next few days at the Ageas Bowl promise much.

There has already been talk about whether Virat Kohli's team can emulate Don Bradman's 1936-37 Australian side in coming back from 2-0 down to take the series 3-2. That is better left for next week and the build-up to The Oval should India manage to square the series here. And what a conclusion that would set up.

First they need to back up Trent Bridge with a performance of similar fortitude and skill. Having twice got their selection wrong in the opening two Tests, there is now a well-balanced feel to the line-up: the return of Jasprit Bumrah made a significant difference to the pace attack and though the openers didn't score heavily in Nottingham they played their part. It all means there is a good chance of Kohli naming an unchanged XI for the first time in his captaincy.

For England most of the attention is centered around the misfiring top order. Jonny Bairstow has been cleared to play as a batsman, but time is running short for some of them to deliver a match-shaping innings. Joe Root needs to define a contest like his opposite number - it is more than a year since his last Test century.

In the wake of the defeat at Trent Bridge, it was easy to lose sight of the fact it is England who remain 2-1 up. Last year they responded to a thrashing against South Africa, also at Trent Bridge, to clean up in the next two matches. A similar response this week and, regardless of the persistent issues, it will be a notable feather in Root's cap to have beaten the No. 1 Test side. However, victory for India and that dip at a very special comeback will be a step closer.

Form guide

England LWWWL (last five Tests, most recent first)
India WLLWW

In the spotlight

Four years ago Alastair Cook came to the Ageas Bowl at one of his lowest ebbs. He was horribly out of form and India had inflicted a heavy defeat at Lord's to go 1-0 up. In one of those sliding-doors moments, Cook was dropped at slip on 15 and went on to make a gusty 95 in what became a handsome England win. What Cook, now back in the ranks, would give for a little bit of that luck and a similar score this time. He will have the last two Tests of the series regardless of what happens at the Ageas Bowl, but further low scores would create huge pressure on him at The Oval.

India didn't need R Ashwin to play a massive role at Trent Bridge because of the impact of the seamers and it's probably a good job given the problem he had with his hip. But India can't bank on Hardik Pandya taking five wickets all the time so Ashwin may be needed in both an attacking and defensive role. At the beginning of the series he bowled beautifully at Edgbaston - perhaps as well as he ever has overseas - but the conditions at Lord's then his injury have given him a bit-part role since. There is still time for him to have a major say in the series.

Team news

Root again confirmed his team a day out. Bairstow's finger has healed enough for him to retain a place as a batsman, moving up to No.4, but the gloves go to Jos Buttler. Sam Curran has replaced Chris Woakes, who has a thigh strain, while Moeen Ali comes in for Ollie Pope whose two Test matches came batting at No. 4 - a position he had never occupied in first-class cricket.

England: 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Keaton Jennings, 3 Joe Root (capt), 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Sam Curran, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson

Kohli confirmed that Ashwin has fully recovered from his hip niggle. This means there's a chance of India naming an unchanged XI. However, Kohli has also predicted plenty of help for the spinners as the match wears on, which opens up the possibility of Ravindra Jadeja coming in as second spinner, perhaps in place of Mohammed Shami.

India (probable): 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Rishabh Pant (wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Mohammed Shami/Ravindra Jadeja, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Pitch and conditions

The pitch had a tinge of green but is expected to be a bat-first surface albeit with a challenging first session for the batsmen. Spin can come into play at the ground - Moeen took a six-wicket haul in the fourth innings in 2014 - but the pitch is not expected to change character quickly. The forecast is for a dry and mild five days, if the match lasts that long.

Stats and Trivia

  • James Anderson needs seven wickets to overtake Glenn McGrath as the most prolific pace bowler in Test history. Anderson has 11 wickets at an average of 19.45 in two Tests at the Ageas Bowl.

  • Virat Kohli is six runs away from 6000 Test runs. Only nine Indian players have scored more than 6000 Test runs. And he is 104 away from 4000 runs as captain, with only nine players having scored that many as captain.

  • Ishant Sharma needs one wicket to reach 250 in Tests

Quotes

"We've bounced back from difficult defeats before and that's the challenge for us to do it again here."
Joe Root

"England would want to come back strongly. We understand that and we will have to be even better with what we did in Nottingham to be able to get results our way."
Virat Kohli