England v India: third Test: Hosts with much to ponder ahead of Ageas Bowl clash
Last Updated: 27/07/14 9:39am
England must decide whether to make more than the one enforced change at wicket-keeper for the third Test against India, which begins at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Sunday.
One change is certain, with Jos Buttler fast-tracked into the side to replace Matt Prior behind the stumps for his Test debut, but coach Peter Moores and captain Alastair Cook have much to ponder ahead of the toss on the south coast.
Cook, who has been under severe pressure to quit as skipper since the second Test defeat at Lord's, insists he will continue to lead England until he is asked to step down.
But quite apart from his captaincy, the Essex left-hander is desperate for runs after a terrible run with the bat, while the fitness and form of his senior bowlers is giving him further headaches this week.
He admits he is concerned by the effect of five near back-to-back Tests on his fast bowlers this summer, especially Stuart Broad who continues to manage a chronic knee problem, while he is worried about James Anderson being distracted by his charge for allegedly "abusing and pushing" Ravindra Jadeja during the first Test.
"I've got to make sure he's okay," Cook said of Anderson. "Obviously it can be a distraction, and obviously is a distraction with that looming over him.
"But he's a very senior, experienced guy who has been through a lot. Chatting to him, he was obviously hurting after Lord's.
"At Headingley (where Anderson was in tears after a last-ditch defeat against Sri Lanka), you can see how much it means to him to play for England."
Ben Stokes' miserable form - at least with the bat at No 8 - is also a worry. The Durham all-rounder hasn't scored a run in three innings since his recall to the side and Chris Jordan, who made way for Stokes despite impressing during the two-Test Sri Lanka series earlier in the summer, will be hoping for a recall.
Chris Woakes is also in the 13-man squad again, although England - 1-0 down in the five-match series - are unlikely to drastically rotate because defeat would ensure they cannot win the series.
"We're not in position to exactly rotate, because we're not winning games of cricket," added Cook.
India skipper MS Dhoni is reluctant to change his XI this week and is looking to press home the advantage gained from their morale-boosting win at Lord's.
"We will see what is needed for this Test but you have to remember the phrase 'why mend it if it is not broken'. When you are at the top and you are doing well there are others who are trying to catch up with you. We will have to see how the wicket is and select our team accordingly.
"What really helps is to take one game at a time and don't look to far ahead. We must focus on the basics and that is how we proceed and we must not get ahead of ourselves."
Watch the third Test between England and India at the Ageas Bowl live on Sky Sports 2 from 10am on Sunday.