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We Have Gained Momentum at Right Time — Kohli Eyes Another Counter Punch

Cricketnext Staff | Updated: August 30, 2018, 8:10 AM IST

Southampton: Ravichandran Ashwin has recovered from his hip injury and is fit to play the fourth Test against England, said Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who hinted that he would field an unchanged side on Thursday after changing the playing XI in each of the last 38 Tests.

India have chopped and changed their teams for the last 45 Tests, with Kohli fielding 38 combinations in as many Tests.

"Everyone is fit to start tomorrow. Ashwin has recovered nicely. He had a good practice session yesterday. He is good to go," Kohli told reporters.

"It has not always been the case of (making random) changes. There have been injuries as well, which have not been taking in to consideration. It has been a mix of both. Seeing the way things are right now we don't feel we need to change anything."

Lagging 0-2, India managed to make a comeback in the five-Test series with a 203-run win in the third Test at Nottingham and Kohli urged his side to work hard and carry the winning momentum into the fourth Test.

"We probably didn't have the experience to capitalize on the lead (1-0 after win at Lord's) is how I see things four years down the line," he said, reflecting on India's tour of England in 2014.

"Right now we understand that we are in a very exciting position to have gained momentum at the right time in the series. To have played like that when 2-nil down, when everyone thought that it is going to be a clean sweep or we are going to be rolled over."

A green top has been prepared for this fourth Test, which should work to the strengths of the Indian pacers.

However, Kohli ruled out the possibility of an all-pace attack.

"If there is a pitch is like Johannesburg then you have no doubt whatsoever in playing an all out pace attack. But I don't think this pitch is anywhere close to Johannesburg. So I doubt an all pace attack is the right option," he said.

"...the last time we played here the spinners came into play in the second innings. There were big footmarks. The surface is pretty hard. Once it wears out there can be big footmarks and spinners can get a lot in the second innings. That is how I see the wicket as of now."

When asked if the batsmen, including him, will have to change their techniques to adapt to this green top wicket, Kohli said, "I don't think there's any need to change the way I've played so far in this series, or other batsmen the way they played in the last game.

"If the wicket is behaving totally different, you have to be flexible adjusting there and not having pre-set notions about going out wanting to play a certain way.

"Apart from the pitch, conditions are going to be a massive factor as well because it's cold for the last couple of days and it's going to remain like that from what I understand. We will have to assess the situation every hour I guess because it can change very rapidly," he signed off.

Stokes Injury Worry Paves Way for Ali Comeback

England captain Joe Root said comeback-man Ben Stokes is not fully fit to carry out his complete bowling responsibilities, which has prompted the side to bring in Moeen Ali.

"There's two changes to the team from last week. Sam Curran comes in for Chris Woakes - he's not fit to play this time around - and with Ben not being 100 per cent in terms of the amount he can bowl and the balance of the side, Moeen comes in for Ollie Pope," Root said.

Stokes suffered a knee injury during the third Test, his first since being acquitted of affray charges after a brawl outside a pub.

"The likes of Moeen going back to county cricket making a double hundred and take six-for, Sam went back and played for Surrey and now has another opportunity. At all times, you're not far away from playing," he added.

England lead the five-match series 2-1 but have been pulled back by the loss in the third Test.

Root expressed confidence that his side will bounce back from the defeat suffered in Nottingham.

"We under-performed last week, that's the bottom line. One of our big strengths as a squad is our strength of character and, at home in particular, we're very good at bouncing back from difficult weeks," he said.

"We've done it time and time again before. And I don't expect anything less form the group this time as well," he added.

Root also confirmed that Jonny Bairstow will play as a specialist batsman and bat at number four, with Jos Buttler keeping wickets probably till the end of this series.

"With a slight fracture it's the safest thing to do is for Jonny to play just as a batter. He is fit to bat and will bat at four this week. He's fully aware that it's a lot to ask him to keep with a broken finger. Well, a slight crack in it.

The green-top wicket at Southampton also suits England just fine, with James Anderson only seven wickets away from overtaking Australia's Glenn McGrath to become the most successful Test pacer. Root hoped Anderson would achieve the feat in this Test.

"One thing he gives me is great control. He is obviously a very great attacking threat when it is seaming and swinging but you always feel that it is going to create pressure for you and he is always going to ask difficult questions of batters for long periods of time," he said.

"He is brilliant to have around and I think he is getting better and better to be honest. I think he could play for a good while yet which is really exciting if he can stay on the park and he looks desperate to do so," said Root.

The skipper also hoped that Alastair Cook would hit form like he did for England back in 2014, when he scored 95 runs, albeit benefitting from a dropped catch. Root hoped that the batting line-up would put up an improved performance in this Test.

"I remember being sat in the dressing room (in 2014) almost a little bit emotional for him. That was the feeling within the group, how much he means to the squad. We are fully aware of what he's capable of doing.

"It was nice to have that support heard from outside the four walls of the changing room. Think he got 95 caught down the leg side (in 2014)," Root signed off.

(With Inputs From PTI)

First Published: August 30, 2018, 8:00 AM IST
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