England beat India by 60 runs in Southampton to take a winning 3-1 lead in the series with just the final match at the Oval beginning on Friday to come
This has been an absorbing series, as much because of the batting frailties of both teams as anything else, which has led to a series of close contests
England, in the last 62 innings have been 100-4 or worse 32 times! The strengths of their middle order and all-rounders have helped them stay competitive. 17.7 is the the lowest England’s top four have averaged in a Test series since 1935.
India have been frustrating too. At Southampton they had England 86-6 and were then 140-2 in reply. The game should be have been out of sight at least twice
Both sides have showed skill and strength in their seam bowling to counter their batting issues India have been slightly unfortunately to lose 4 out of 4 tosses, leaving them batting last on turning pitches and Ashwin’s injury has hampered them too. India’s batsmen average 18.74 in fourth innings in last two years, the lowest among all teams.
At The Oval you would ordinarily expect the best batting pitch in the country but late season weather might be a counter-point to that and in any case it seems reasonable to expect a result given the lack of form from both top orders
Moeen is one of a number of all-rounders in this England team. From the side that played in Southampton you could argue five players – Moeen, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Curran have two strings to their bow.
The idea that too many all-rounders are hurting England is a bit of a red herring because, with the probable exception of Curran, they are also the best batsmen available.
What matters is the way they play, which is often too expansive. All-rounders can be like that, but it does not have to be the case. Look at the way Jacques Kallis, one of the finest all-rounders the game has ever seen, batted so correctly in Test cricket.
Now it is up to those all-rounders to realise there is a ‘situation vacant’ sign above the number three position and for one of them to make it his own.
In the short term, England will probably pick the same side at The Oval.
In some ways, it is a shame we are not heading to London with the series poised at 2-2. It almost deserved a decider.
England will not be thinking like that, though. Even if they have some issues, they are most likely to be judged on winning Tests and series – that is what they have done.
By the same token, India have looked a very good side and they have certainly not harmed their reputation by coming up short.
The fifth and final Test will still be an entertaining game of cricket.
England are 4/6 with Ladbrokes, India 9/4 and the Draw 5/1. I will take 9/4 India for a comsolation win