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England running out of options ahead of final showdown with India


D

efeat here at the Kia Oval yesterday leaves England holding on for dear life ahead of the final Test of a brutal summer, starting at Old Trafford on Friday.

There is ignominy to be avoided: you have to go back to 1986 to find a home summer in which they lost both their Test series, and to 1999 to find a home summer in which they won as few as one match, the current state of affairs.

But it is not just the results that are an issue. Cricket fans should not put too much stock in the long-range weather forecast, but it is currently shaky for the final Test against India. Manchester in mid-September? Who would have thought it?

Most worrying is the personnel. England today added Jos Buttler, back from a brief paternity leave following the birth of his second child, and his great mate Jack Leach to their squad for the Fifth Test.

There are no new seamers because, well, they have just about run out. To Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Olly Stone and Ben Stokes, all missing for the series, we can add the intriguing uncapped alternatives Saqib Mahmood, Brydon Carse and George Garton.

The first two are injured, the third is playing for Sussex as a batter this week because his body is not ready for a first-class match after a summer of white-ball fun.

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All this is mitigation if not an excuse for poor results, when you throw in Chris Woakes missing three matches and Mark Wood two. So there are no additions, despite Jimmy Anderson, aged 39, and Ollie Robinson, new to all of this, being out on their feet having bowled 330 overs between them in the series.

Woakes got through 47 in his first red-ball match for 13 months, which will leave him leggy. Even the underused Craig Overton took an awkward bash to the elbow when being dismissed yesterday. He was being assessed on Tuesday morning but is expected to pull through.

Wood seems certain to play, while Sam Curran could return as a fourth seamer if required. Another option, if it seems dry enough, is to bring Leach in and change the balance. The suggestion is that he is there as a second spin option, rather than to replace Moeen Ali.

India, by contrast, have all sorts of options. They will hope Mohammed Shami is fit again, and he could replace Mohammed Siraj, who was quieter at The Oval, while they might even finally call on Ravichandran Ashwin.

AFP via Getty Images

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