England – +100 at Bovada
Draw – +450
India – +160
WHAT a difference a week makes.
It was only a matter of days ago that India’s tour of the United Kingdom was in shambles after an innings defeat at Lord’s.
Now, having turned the tables with a resounding win at Trent Bridge, the visitors head to Southampton with all the momentum.
Virat Kohli made exactly 200 runs in a match for the second time this series, but the Indian skipper had a few helpers on this occasion.
Every player in the top order contributed runs, with Ajinkya Rahane (81) standing out in the first dig and Cheteshwar Pujara (72) finding some touch in the second.
Hardik Pandya silenced his critics with a five-wicket haul and a brisk half-ton, while Jasprit Bumrah justified his selection with a five-for of his own.
It was exactly what India needed to keep the series alive and put the pressure back on their hosts.
After such a dominant display in the second Test, England are now left wondering whether they got the balance right in Nottingham.
Ben Stokes replaced Sam Curran and made some fighting runs late in the game, but there are questions as to whether he has the fitness base to play as a bowling allrounder.
To add injury to insult, Jonny Bairstow broke his finger in the field and is in doubt for Thursday’s start at the Rose Bowl.
Jos Buttler will take the keeper’s gloves no matter what, while James Vince – not sighted in Test cricket since the tour of New Zealand in March – is on standby in the event Bairstow is ruled out altogether.
Both Stokes and Buttler were moved up the batting order as a result of Bairstow’s injury, and some have suggested the pair should remain there after a fifth-wicket stand of 159 last time out.
Others have called for big changes in the top order, where Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings are under serious scrutiny after five innings without either batsman reaching 50.
Another in the mix is Moeen Ali, who grabbed a six-for against India at the Rose Bowl four years ago and comes fresh off a double century in the Country Championship.
Best bets for top batsman
Odds courtesy of Bovada
Joe Root (+275) – England need a big knock from their skipper and best bat. Root has failed to reach 20 in his any of his last four hits and has now gone more than 12 months without a Test century, so his odds of topping the pops for the hosts are about as high as they have been in the past four years.
Virat Kohli (+175) – Yes, the likes of Pujara and Rahane look like very decent value after their improved displays at Trent Bridge, but Kohli is still the only man for this market. The guy has two hundreds and two fifties already this series, so who would back against him adding to that tally in Southampton?
Top bowler betting tips
Odds courtesy of Bovada
James Anderson (+175) – England’s veteran swingman has taken more Test wickets at the Rose Bowl than anybody else, including a five-for when India last visited four years ago. A couple of good days at the office will see Jimmy overtake Glenn McGrath as the most prolific fast bowler in the history of Test cricket.
Ishant Sharma (+325) – India’s most experienced seamer has fluctuated between brilliant and bollocks all series, but there was a spark and focus at Trent Bridge that was previously lacking. Look for the 29-year-old Delhiite to take the lead on a Southampton wicket that has favoured the quicks in county cricket.
Who wins – England or India?
Momentum or history – that’s what this boils down to.
It was a very different England side that won at this venue in 2014, but several key elements remain. Joe Root and Ali Cook are still there, along with the bowling trio of Anderson, Broad and Woakes.
However, the hosts have problems. Bairstow’s injury and the woes of the top order mean a reshuffle of some kind is bound to take place, and tinkering at the midway point can make or break a series.
Meanwhile, the visitors have found their mojo and might well take an unchanged 11 into the fourth Test. If Kohli finds another partner in crime, and if the Indian quicks do what they did at Trent Bridge, we could be heading to the Oval all square.
Top tip: India to win – +160 at Bovada
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