Are India thinking of playing both R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja at the Ageas Bowl?

On the eve of the fourth Test at the Ageas Bowl, are India tempted to play two spinners? Virat Kohli, their captain, has predicted the pitch will take significant turn towards the latter half of the match.

Until India arrived at training this afternoon, the general feeling was that Kohli would be inclined to stick to the same team that dominated England at Trent Bridge to keep India alive in the series. R Ashwin, India's only spinner in that game, picked up a hip injury on day two, but now that he has recovered fully, he is assured of retaining his place, especially after bowling a long spell, lasting about an hour, in the nets on Tuesday and getting through a solid batting drill too.

The question then would be: why not stick with a winning unit? Some might even suggest that thoughts of playing a second spinner might have crept into India's minds after Joe Root revealed that Moeen Ali would play the fourth Test and share spin duties with Adil Rashid.

Moeen, however, is taking the place of a specialist batsman, Ollie Pope, and England view his offspin as a bonus, given the many and varied bowling options they already possess. If India are thinking of including a second spinner, it's because they think spin could play a crucial role on the Ageas Bowl pitch, which Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri have closely assessed over the last three days. They might also be influenced by what happened when they last came to Southampton for a Test match, in 2014, when Moeen picked up six second-innings wickets in a crushing England win.

On Wednesday, Kohli predicted spin would play a crucial role.

"The last time we played here the spinners came into play in the second innings," he said. "There were big footmarks. The surface is pretty hard. Once it wears out there can be big footmarks and spinners can get a lot [of help] in the second innings. That is how I see the wicket as of now."

Four years ago India played just one spinner here, in Ravindra Jadeja, who will combine with Ashwin this time if they play two spinners. Jadeja bowled 56.2 overs across England's two innings in 2014, and India may well have wished then that he had more support - the part-time offspinner Rohit Sharma bowled in both innings, sending down 14 overs in all.

Jadeja has only played one Test match this year, but remains No. 3 on the ICC's rankings for Test bowlers. He last played in an overseas Test in Sri Lanka in August 2017. He was on the bench right through India's tour of South Africa in January, and hasn't found a place in India's XI yet on this tour of England. India played two spinners at Lord's - a decision both Shastri and Kohli later admitted may have been the wrong one in seaming conditions - but it was Kuldeep Yadav, the left-arm wristspinner, who partnered Ashwin rather than Jadeja.

Kuldeep is not part of India's squad for the last two Tests, and Jadeja has been practising with the main group of players over the last three days, suggesting that India are contemplating playing him.

With conditions over the weekend forecast to be warm and sunny, spin is likely to play a crucial role as the match wears on. And England's line-up, which they revealed on the eve of the match, contains as many as seven left-hand batsmen. That would naturally enthuse Ashwin, who averages 19.64 against left-handers in Test cricket as against 31.86 against right-handers. And if Kohli's prediction of footmarks comes to pass, there will be plenty of rough areas outside the left-handers' off stump for Jadeja to aim his left-arm spin into in the second innings.