England keeping eye on the ball as India hit by eve-of-match COVID-19 case

By Sports Desk September 09, 2021

Jos Buttler said England have their "fingers crossed" that the fifth Test against India will go ahead at Old Trafford after the tourists were hit by a new COVID-19 case.

A member of India's support staff, reported by the Times of India to be a junior physio, has tested positive for coronavirus, and the team did not appear for a net session or hold a news conference on Thursday.

On the eve of the match, the last in a series in which India hold a 2-1 lead, it remained to be seen whether there could be an issue with it going ahead as scheduled.

India do not want to concede the match, yet this is the latest case in their camp, after head coach Ravi Shastri and two members of his staff also tested positive and were sidelined during the fourth Test at The Oval.

England wicketkeeper-batsman Buttler said: "At present we're fully expecting the game to go ahead. We're preparing to play tomorrow and fingers crossed the game will go ahead.

"Things are all fine in our camp and we trained well this morning so, hopefully, we're looking forward to the game tomorrow."

The Oval defeat for England came as India carved through the hosts' batting line-up on the final day, reducing them from 100-0 to 210 all out, earning a 157-run success.

"It was a fantastic Test match for the neutrals," said Buttler, who missed the game as his wife gave birth. "The team played some brilliant cricket for large parts of that game but couldn't quite get it done.

"As a group we're determined to win this Test match and level this series. Spirits are high and so it's one last big push this summer for a must-win game for us."

England have a proud Old Trafford record against India to defend, having never lost in the nine matches the teams have contested at the ground. England have four wins and five draws in their head-to-head, winning by an innings and 54 runs when the teams last played in Manchester, in August 2014.

An Old Trafford draw in 1990 featured the first Test century of Sachin Tendulkar's stellar career, the then 17-year-old making 119 not out in the fourth innings of the contest.

 

BUTTLER SEES ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

Buttler made a Test ton against India at Trent Bridge three years ago, and a return to that level of form would be welcome after a run of low scores, with 25 his highest across five Test innings in this series.

"I haven't played my best by a long stretch," Buttler said. "I think I've felt like that the whole season. It's on yourself as a player to put the work in, to train hard and make some runs.

"I've been working hard on that and that's the challenge of the game: can you do the work to give yourself the best chance to perform in the middle?"

For the Lancashire player, home advantage may help in the coming days.

ANDERSON COULD TAKE CENTRE STAGE

Another player relishing the chance to shine at his county ground will be James Anderson, England's evergreen paceman.

The 39-year-old has 15 wickets at an average of 24.66 so far in this series, and Buttler is confident Anderson and fellow quick Ollie Robinson will be raring to go after a heavy Oval workload.

"They've bowled a lot of overs and bowled fantastically well," said Buttler. "They've rightfully taken rest in the few days since the last game.

"But they seem to be pulling up well. Jimmy is a fantastically fit guy who looks after himself and Ollie's exactly the same. Fingers crossed they'll both be in good shape and available for selection."

Robinson has a series-high 21 wickets at 21.33, and his contribution could be important as England target a fourth straight win in Tests at Old Trafford. 

The last and only time they enjoyed a longer winning run at the venue was a four-match span from July 2006 to June 2010. England have not lost consecutive home Tests against India since June 1986, which was the first time that had occurred.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– India last won a Test series against England, in England, in 2007. To deny them, England will be chasing a win that would be their 50th in men's Tests against India. They have passed that landmark against three other Test teams previously: 110 wins against Australia, 64 against South Africa and 51 against West Indies.

– England have not lost back-to-back men's home Tests since July 2008, when South Africa were the opposition.

– India captain Virat Kohli is 40 away from becoming the fifth player to score 2,000 runs in men's Tests between England and India (Tendulkar – 2,535, Sunil Gavaskar – 2,483, Alastair Cook – 2,431 and Joe Root – 2,353); however, Kohli's Test batting average (43.6) against England is his second lowest against any country (43.3 v West Indies).

– England skipper Root (1,455 in 2021) is 27 away from recording the most runs in men's Tests by an England player in a calendar year (Michael Vaughan – 1,481 in 2002).

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