The first step towards glory has already been taken. After losing the first two encounters of the series, Virat Kohli's men made a spectacular comeback in the third Test at Trent Bridge. The skipper led from the front, while Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah rattled English batsmen with ball in their hands as India registered a morale-boosting 203-run victory.
As the series now stands at 2-1, still in favour of England, the action now shifts to the Rose Bowl, Southampton. Unlike the other historical grounds in England, Rose Bowl is a new addition to the family - as new as 2001. However, it still has its own share of history. The ground, shaped like a circular amphitheater, and its highlight - the three-storey pavilion with a canopied roof - is a feast for the eyes. Currently known as The Ageas Bowl for sponsorship reasons, it's the home of Hampshire County Cricket Club.
— Hampshire Cricket (@hantscricket) August 25, 2018
Considering the smaller nature of the ground, it has been used more for the limited-overs games. Traditionally, the track at Rose Bowl has been more favourable to the fast bowlers. The venue has hosted only two Tests since its inception. While Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera helped Sri Lanka pull off a draw in 2011, India were blown by England's all-round performance in 2014.
Not much has changed since 2014. In the 2017 and (ongoing) 2018 County Championships, the pacers have taken maximum wickets, while spinners do come into play in the latter stages of the games. Out of 351 wickets that have fallen in 12 first-class matches in the last two seasons (as of August 28), 268 wickets have been taken by pacers, 75 by spinners, while the remaining eight have been other mode of dismissals.
It comes as no surprise that four of the top five wicket-takers at the venue in the last two seasons have been pacers.
Expectedly, teams batting first have had the last laugh on most of the occasions. Out of the 12 games, five have produced results, with four of them being won by the team batting first. The only exception being Essex, who scripted a brilliant come-from-behind win after being bowled out for just 76 in their first innings.
Despite the average first innings total at this venue in the last 10 matches being 297, both India and England might look to bat first. The key will be to get a total of above 300 and put the opposition under pressure. At Edgbaston, England did get close to the 300-run mark in their first essay and ended up winning the encounter. While at Lord's, India were bowled out for just 107 in their first dig and that cost them the match. However, they did manage 329 in the third Test and that was enough to push England on the backfoot.
If India does end up batting first in the fourth Test, they will have to survive the first few hours against the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes. The visiting side will want to put up enough runs on the board for their bowlers, who have constantly been doing the job for Kohli in the last two years. And the same can be said for England.
Presumably, the conditions are once again going to be more suitable to the bowlers and both the teams are quite stacked up in that department.
In the last three Ashes Tests of 1936-37, Bradman had scores of 270, 212 and 169, and the onus will be on Kohli to do something similar in Southampton, which eventually might end up helping India win the Test match.
First Published: August 29, 2018, 8:45 AM IST