England bowl against India in fourth Test as Ashwin misses out again

London (AFP) –


England captain Joe Root won the toss and elected to field in the fourth Test against India at the Oval on Thursday as the tourists again omitted Ravichandran Ashwin.

India made two changes to the side that suffered a comprehensive innings and 76-run defeat in the third Test at Headingley that saw England level the five-match series at 1-1.

Ishant Sharma, struggling for wickets and Mohammed Shami, who has bowled nearly 97 overs in the series, were both dropped.

They were replaced by two fellow pacemen, with Shardul Thakur -- who played in the drawn first Test at Trent Bridge before suffering a hamstring injury -- recalled and Umesh Yadav brought in for his first match this series.

That meant there was still no place for Ashwin, with the India off-spinner yet to feature this series despite having taken 413 Test wickets and scored five hundreds, as well as playing at the Oval for Surrey in July.

India captain Virat Kohli explained Ashwin's absence -- on a pitch expected to take turn -- by highlighting how his side would again look to left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja.

"England have four left handers and we thought it is a good match-up for Ravindra Jadeja along with the seam bowlers. Plus the balance Jadeja gives us with the bat is important.

"We have a few days left on this tour. The series is poised, a lot to play for, and it's always exciting to play Test cricket for your country."

There were no changes to India's top order, despite the tourists slumping to 78 all out in the first innings at Headingley.

- 'Use the conditions' -

England also made two changes to the side that won the third Test with pace bowling all-rounder Chris Woakes returning for his first Test in over a year following injuries and Covid complications after England dropped struggling Surrey left-armer Sam Curran.

Middle-order batsman Ollie Pope was also recalled on his Surrey home ground after Jos Buttler withdrew from this match to attend the birth of his second child.

Jonny Bairstow, who played purely as a batsman at Headingley, took over as wicketkeeper in Buttler's absence.

"We're going to try and make use of the overhead conditions -- it looks like a nice morning for bowling," said Root, with the grey skies above the Oval promising to assist his quick bowlers.

England captain Joe Root
England captain Joe Root Lindsey Parnaby AFP

Root, now the world's top-ranked Test batsman after he scored his third hundred of the series at Leeds -- his sixth in Tests this year -- said it had been a tough call to pick Pope over Dan Lawrence.

"It was a really tough decision -- they're two very talented players. Ollie gets the opportunity this week so hopefully he can make the most of it and score some runs."


England: Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (capt), Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Craig Overton, Ollie Robinson, James Anderson

India: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wkt), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj

Umpires: Richard Illingworth (ENG), Alex Wharf (ENG)

TV umpire: Michael Gough (ENG)

Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG)