Belief back in England camp as hosts prepare for Old Trafford
Following England’s 266-runs victory over India in the third Test at the Rose Bowl, the hosts and captain Alistair Cook in particular will be in a more cheerful mood, after levelling the series to 1-1, with two matches to go.
The Essex opener is still without a hundred from 29 Test Innings, but has certainly silenced critics for now following his confident top of the order scores in both innings (90 and 70 not out).
Peter Moores’ men are now the favourites both to win the five-match series at evens, and the upcoming fixture at Old Trafford at 8/5, while Cook is 4/1 to be best batsman for the hosts in the first innings.
It seems that the skipper’s revival to form was certainly no coincidence, as his side won their first Test match in nearly a year, and players such as new star Gary Ballance and elder statesman Ian Bell took confidence from his displays.
The duo both hit 150s in the third Test, and are also 4/1 in the market with Coral to top score for England in the first innings.
Zimbabwean-born Ballance has spoken about his fantastic form (he has hit three 100s and is England’s leading scorer this summer), and is hungry for more. “It’s nice that I’ve brought a bit of form in from the County Championship, and it’s nice that I’ve kicked on a bit and got some good scores,” the Yorkshire batsman said.
“But, you know, like everyone will say to you, you can’t take form for granted. You’ve really got to be greedy and hopefully I can build on those scores and get another score which will put England in a winning position.”
Ballance, on the topic of the Old Trafford pitch, which will likely be the quickest surface of the series, added: “I’ve heard it’s going to be a bit quicker, so we’ll see. I think it’s a kind of pitch that’s got a bit of something for everyone – a bit of pace and bounce early on in the game and then it spins towards the end.
“So it’s probably going to be something for everything and just be a good cricket wicket and hopefully if the weather stays good, it will be a good game.”
There is more positive news that James Anderson (2/1 to be England best bowler in the first innings) will be available to play on his home pitch, after his clash with India’s Ravindra Jadeja at Trent Bridge was deemed unpunishable.
Cook has spoken of his delight for both his side and England on the matter: “It’s been a really good couple of days off the field for us, making sure that Jimmy’s available to play and that the whole incident is behind us,” he said.
“He’s a little bit less grumpy, which is nice for Jimmy. These last couple of Test matches with this hanging over him, he’s bowled really well so I don’t think it has really affected his performance on the field at all.
“It’s great that it is now behind him. He gets to play in his home Test match, which I know is very special. For him to play here means a lot to him, and that was his biggest concern, that he wouldn’t get to play at Old Trafford.”
Another bowler who will be in high spirits is Steven Finn, who has been recalled to the side, to replace the injured Liam Plunkett.
The Middlesex seamer, still only 25, has been in fine form for his County this season, averaging 29.72 from his 10 Division One matches, getting 44 wickets in the process. If selected, he has odds of 10/3 to be best England bowler in the first innings.
For India, meanwhile, there was not much to shout about from their innings, but Ajinkya Rahane did manage to record 50s in both innings. He is 5/1 to top score in the first for the visitors again.