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).

England have recalled Tymal Mills after a four-year absence from international cricket for their T20 World Cup squad, while Ben Stokes remains on an indefinite break from cricket.

Stokes had announced his break before the Test series against India to prioritise his mental wellbeing and did not make himself available for selection for England's preliminary 15-man T20 squad.

In the absence of the injured Jofra Archer, Mills features for the first time since February 2017 after impressing in white-ball cricket this term, winning the inaugural Hundred competition with Trent Rockets and guiding Sussex to the T20 Blast Finals Day.

On announcing England's squad, head coach Chris Silverwood said: "We are excited about the prospect of challenging to win the ICC T20 World Cup. 

"I believe we have selected a squad that covers all bases and has the depth to be successful in what is expected to be a very competitive tournament featuring the best players in the world.

"Tymal Mills deserves his inclusion and has demonstrated over the past couple of years, but particularly this summer that he has all skills to succeed at this level. 

"His exceptional pace is a standout, and the way he has spearheaded Sussex and Southern Brave's respective attacks in the short-form game has shown that he relishes the pressures of the big stage.

"He will add variety to our bowling unit, and we can't wait to see him play in a major international tournament."

David Willey also makes the list after the disappointment of missing out on the triumphant 50-over World Cup squad in 2019, with Tom Curran demoted to the reserves.

There is no room for leg-spinner Matt Parkinson but Lancashire team-mate Liam Livingstone is included and could have a big role to play as a third spinner alongside Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid.

Eoin Morgan's men, who fell short in the final against West Indies at the 2016 T20 World Cup, have until October 10 to finalise their squad.

England finish off their preparations with a two-match T20I series against Pakistan, on 14 and 15 October, before their first group-stage fixture against West Indies on October 23.

 

England squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonathan Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Tymal Mills, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Reserves: Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, James Vince.

England manager Gareth Southgate defended his lack of substitutions in the team's 1-1 draw away to Poland in World Cup qualifying.

Southgate did not make a change as England's winning start to World Cup qualifying ended after Damian Szymanski nodded home a dramatic first Poland goal on Wednesday.

Szymanski's 92nd-minute equaliser cancelled out Harry Kane's second-half opener in Warsaw, though England remain top of Group I on the road to Qatar 2022.

It was the first time England did not make a sub since the Euro 1996 semi-final against Germany.

Afterwards, Southgate was asked about his decision not to introduce fresh faces midweek.

"We were in total control of the game and to bring players into that moment when everybody was performing to a good level, and we were in control of possession," Southgate told reporters.

"You can put players into the game who have had to sit in the stands and it's not so easy to come on in those latter stages, so there are a couple of times where we looked at it and said now that we're doing well, no, no problem.

"We're going to refresh the wide players right at the end, but really, that would have been to run the clock down as much as anything. But before we could get them in, we've conceded the goal and once we've conceded the goal, again, we didn't think that was a good moment to make a change, so that was that was why we did it."

For only the second time in their last 18 major tournament qualifying matches, England failed to register victory, also failing in October 2019 against the Czech Republic.

England have not lost any of their last 18 matches against Poland (W11 D7), a run that stretches back to October 1973.

Southgate's England, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last 16 international matches (W13 D3) – their longest streak without defeat since a 16-game run between September 1995 and November 1996.

"We knew that today if we could win the game then we were pretty much in Qatar," Southgate said. "That isn't the case we've still got some work to do.

"We could have been in an even stronger position, so that is a disappointment, but I can't fault what the players have given over that period and the way they've responded to the summer."

Harry Kane described Poland's late equaliser as "a kick in the teeth" after England's winning run in World Cup qualifying was ended on Wednesday.

Gareth Southgate's side took the lead through Kane's stunner in Warsaw, but were pegged back by Damian Szymanski's header from Robert Lewandowski's cross.

The Three Lions still sit top in Group J, five points clear of Albania and six clear of Poland in the hunt for a spot at Qatar 2022.

"A kick in the teeth at the end there, it's never easy conceding in the last minute," Kane told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"It was a good performance from the boys though, we controlled the game well.

"Of course [there was an 'edgy' atmosphere], we're playing for the opportunity to play in the World Cup. Poland clearly saw this as their last opportunity to take some points off us and get closer to us in the group.

"I thought we handled it well. The Hungary game and this game away from home were not easy to play in. The boys stepped up and put in good performances."

Kane also believed his goal - a superb effort from around 25 yards out - was one of the best he has netted in his international career, as he moved onto 41 England strikes (only four players have scored more).

"That's probably one of the best goals, probably the furthest out I've scored for England," added Kane, who has now netted in 15 consecutive such games across the World Cup and European Championship, tallying 19 goals.

"I caught it really nicely, it wobbled in the air and caught the keeper off guard. It was a nice one to get because it's a tough place to play and it broke the deadlock, putting us in a good position. Hopefully I can continue that going into the next camp."

A fracas broke out between the teams at half-time, with Kane explaining England's players had reported an incident to the Football Association.

"There was an incident just before half-time which has been reported to the FA guys," he said. "They're taking care of it and investigating it and we'll go from there.

"Allegedly it was something that was done, not said. We haven't had a chance to look at the footage and talk to the lad."

Southgate, meanwhile, was satisfied with England's performance in what he labelled the most difficult game of their qualification campaign.

"It was no surprise that this was the hardest game in the group. Early in the game, we were a little slow to move the ball and Poland pressed us well," he told 5 Live.

"In the second half we controlled the game. If there's a criticism it's that we didn't create enough clear chances from that possession and we didn't get enough players in the box.

"While it's 1-0 you run the risk of what happened at the end. We're clearly disappointed not to get the three points but I have to look at what the players have done across these three matches.

"Given that there was no way of telling how they would react after what happened in the [Euro 2020] final, I think their mentality and application has been really good."

Damian Szymanski nodded a dramatic first Poland goal to end England's winning start to World Cup qualifying in a 1-1 draw, although the Three Lions remain firmly in pole position.

Gareth Southgate's side still hold top spot in Group I, yet they were moving eight points clear of Poland courtesy of Harry Kane's second-half blast until Szymanski's intervention.

The substitute headed past Jordan Pickford in the 92nd minute to secure a precious point in Warsaw.

It was a result England might have taken beforehand, but the late leveller will send the Euro 2020 finalists home frustrated after five straight victories.

Joe Root and England will weigh up over the next couple of days whether to risk James Anderson and Ollie Robinson for the must-win final Test with India.

England head into the fifth Test at Old Trafford 2-1 down in the series after India produced another stirring comeback to prevail by 157 runs at The Oval.

It puts Root in the unenviable position of having to measure the risk against the potential reward of salvaging the series, with Anderson and Robinson having taken on the majority of the workload in the attack.

The absence of all-rounder Ben Stokes, who is taking time away from the game to focus on his mental health, and the injured Jofra Archer, as well as fitness issues for Mark Wood, has led to Anderson (163.3) and Robinson (166.2) bowling 329.5 overs between them.

Robinson is the leading wicket-taker in the series with 21 while Anderson has been similarly impressive, claiming 15 dismissals, but the latter is 39 and management of his playing time is key with The Ashes coming in Australia in December.

Root, who confirmed that Jos Buttler would return as his vice-captain and keep wicket after missing the fourth Test for the birth of his second child, and the selectors have yet to come to a decision on the make-up of the attack.

"That's something that we will weigh up over the next couple of days, these two days are really important for recovery, making sure they're in a position to play Test cricket," he told a media conference. 

"You have to trust the medical advice that's been given and also speak to the players as well, they know their own bodies better than anyone else.

"You never want to go into a Test match putting someone under risk of injury, you want to make sure you do the best thing for a player but you also you don't want to go into a Test match, have someone go down injured and you've one less bowler at your disposal. 

"There are a number of things to factor in, we'll make sure we feel very confident that everyone is fit to take the field and put in a Test-worthy performance when it comes round to selecting a team for this game."

While Robinson and Anderson have excelled with the ball, Root has been the sole standout with the bat for England, racking up 564 runs including three hundreds in a sparkling series for the world's number one Test batsman.

Though openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed have each scored a pair of half-centuries, no other player in the side has a ton this series, with Root believing clarity of thought is key to his team-mates changing that fact.

"It's not something that I've always got right, there's been long periods of my career where I was very guilty of getting in and getting out and it might happen again in the future, I really hope it doesn't," Root added. 

"What I have managed to do well so far this year is I know how I want to score my runs, I know where my big strengths are, I just back them completely. Trusted my decision-making under pressure, not doubted it, and when I have got in I've felt like I've had that mindset of 'it's going to take something very special to get me out'.

"Hopefully that can be infectious and feed through the rest of the batting group. It just takes that one person to go on and do it, it can very quickly spread like wildfire and feed into the rest of the group. Hopefully that can materialise this week."

England's home schedule for 2022 has been confirmed with New Zealand, India and South Africa all set to tour during a hectic year.

The ECB released the men's international fixture list on Wednesday, which launches with a three-match Test series against world champions New Zealand in June.

The Black Caps – winners of the inaugural World Test Championship earlier this year – face England at Lord's (June 2-6), Trent Bridge (June 10-14) and Headingley (June 23-27).

Joe Root's side then welcome India for a three-match T20 series beginning at Old Trafford on July 1, before a three-match ODI series follows from July 9 at Edgbaston.

South Africa then arrive for a three-match ODI series starting at Riverside on July 19, before a three-match T20 series between the sides begins in Bristol eight days later.

The Proteas will also provide the opposition as England conclude their calendar year on home soil with a three-match Test series played at Lord's (August 17-21), Edgbaston (August 25-29) and the Oval (September 8-12). 

ECB chief executive officer, Tom Harrison, said: "It has been a scintillating summer of cricket and so good to see crowds back packing out venues later this summer. 

"For next summer, I am pleased to be able to confirm three high-quality men's international touring teams for 2022, starting with a three-Test series against World Test champions New Zealand.

"We also look forward to India returning for two white-ball series before we host South Africa for what promises to be hard-fought series across three formats, including three Test matches."

Gareth Southgate insists England will be prepared for another hostile atmosphere when they travel to Warsaw to face Poland.

England have enjoyed a productive international break thus far, coasting past Hungary and Andorra by an aggregate score of 8-0 to make it five wins in five games.

Last Thursday in Budapest, England players were subjected to racist abuse by the crowd, Raheem Sterling being the main target as he celebrated his opener.

Southgate expects a tough test on Wednesday, with five of the last seven games on Polish soil finishing as a draw between these two sides.

"We have to approach the game as we did the other night," said the England boss.

"We know keeping possession of the ball can be a big factor in managing those situations.

"But the flow of the game will be different and we are playing a level of opponent who I think is in a better moment.

"They have won their last two games and have good footballers in the team who will keep the ball a little bit better than Hungary were able to against us.

"Then there is a balance of not inflaming situations and giving a home crowd something to live off and get behind the team more.

"That's the balance and experience. I'm sure our players will manage that no problem."

 

Poland have failed to beat the Three Lions in their last 17 attempts and Southgate appreciates the visitors can take control of their World Cup qualification destiny.

"It's a big opportunity for us, we can take a really positive step to the World Cup if we win in Warsaw," he continued.

"There's a high level of motivation, but we're also guarding against any feeling that we're better than we are.

"The team is playing well and we have a squad, any of whom are more than comfortable coming into the side and playing well when they come into the team.

"But those moments can be dangerous if we get any sense of complacency, then we're going into a game where we can be really challenged."

England will make a late call on whether to include Ben Stokes in their T20 World Cup squad but he will not be put under pressure to play.

All-rounder Stokes took an "indefinite break from all cricket" in July for his mental wellbeing and to also allow an injured index finger to fully heal.

Stokes last played for England in a three-match one-day series against Pakistan in July.

His team-mates, including Test captain Joe Root and limited-overs skipper Eoin Morgan, spoke out to support Stokes' decision to take a break. 

The 30-year-old has been a key performer for England in all formats of the game and inspired them to the 50-over World Cup in 2019.

England head coach Chris Silverwood, who has not yet talked to Stokes, will name his squad for the T20 World Cup on Thursday.

 

"We are going to leave that one late, to give it our best chance," Silverwood said.

"I want to give him as much space as possible but there are people talking to him outside of me and it is something we will be revisiting shortly.

"I haven't spoken to him as yet. But I will not be putting pressure on him, will not be rushing him and whatever support he needs he will get.

"First and foremost my only concern is for him and make sure he's okay. That's the starting point I will be at and the rest of the questions will come.

"I need to make sure he is okay and that is my primary concern."

England's first game of the T20 World Cup, staged in United Arab Emirates and Oman, is against West Indies on October 23.

Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler has returned to England's squad for the fifth and final Test against India, which starts at Old Trafford on Friday.

Buttler missed the fourth Test, a 157-run loss to India at The Oval, to be present at the birth of his second child.

Jonny Bairstow took over wicketkeeping duties in Buttler's absence as England went 2-1 down in the five-match series.

Sam Billings, who was included in the squad for the fourth Test squad as cover for Bairstow, has now returned to Kent.

Left-arm spinner Jack Leach is also named in the 16-man party for the match.

He was in England's squad for the first two Tests against India but not selected, and has not featured in a Test match since March.

Leach would give England captain Joe Root another spin option alongside Moeen Ali.

Fast bowler Mark Wood, who has returned from a shoulder injury, and left-arm seamer Sam Curran, dropped for the fourth Test, are both available.

England coach Chris Silverwood acknowledged that, with James Anderson and Ollie Robinson having toiled at The Oval, he may need to freshen up a fatigued attack.

"We have got some aching bodies, I'm not going to deny that," Silverwood said.

"So we obviously have to keep an eye on that. He [Wood] could come back and if he does, he will obviously add that pace for us.

"If the pitch is abrasive as it usually is at Old Trafford there should be reverse swing."

Lancashire seamer Anderson, England's record wicket-taker, would be loathe to miss out on playing at his home ground.

Silverwood acknowledged that with a short turnaround between Tests he will need to have a discussion with the 39-year-old over his fitness. 

"James knows his own body. He will certainly give me an honest opinion of where he is at, and it's certainly something I will listen to," Silverwood explained.

"It'll be a discussion that he and I will have together. He will have input into that, without a shadow of a doubt.

"I know what it's like, he won't want to miss any cricket. We have to make sure we look after him.

"Although there is a gap between the final Test and what's in front of him, he's certainly someone I want to make sure is looked after."

England squad for the fifth Test against India at Old Trafford:  Joe Root (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Joe Root demanded England be more ruthless and promised improvements after a 157-run defeat on Monday handed India a 2-1 series lead with one Test to go. 

The tourists' five-man attack shone on day five to collect their first win at The Oval since 1971, Jasprit Bumrah impressing as he became the quickest India paceman to 100 wickets in the longest format. 

After Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed shared England's first 100-run opening stand in the fourth innings since October 2016, Virat Kohli's bowlers ran riot as the hosts collapsed, losing six wickets for 47 runs. 

Bumrah and Shardul Thakur, whose first-innings half-century was the fastest in Test cricket in England, provided the impetus for India and Root pointed to the former as an example. 

"You look at this game, it's been frustrating today to lose 10 wickets," Root said post-match. 

"But I think, when you look where the game was lost, we should have got a bigger lead first time around with the bat. It would have been nice to have another 100 runs and then we're looking at a completely different game. 

"We have to be a bit more ruthless, with the first-innings runs costing us there. And with our catching, we did put down a few chances. Some were extremely difficult but when you give chances and half-chances to world-class players, they take them. 

"You look at that spell from Bumrah, he recognised the key moment in the game and turned it on its head. It's something we have to look at doing ourselves." 

Indeed, Bumrah has taken the second-most wickets in the series (18) behind Ollie Robinson (21), with England the 27-year-old's favourite opponents, striking 36 times at an average of 24.08. 

And it was his afternoon spell, coupled with Thakur's dismissal of Root, that got the ball rolling for Kohli's men. 

"I think it's something we have to get better at and keep looking to improve, recognising those key moments in games and forcing things a little bit more," Root continued. 

"We did it very well at Headingley but here we did not manage that and it's something we have to be more consistent with, looking at certain situations and getting us into that advantageous position. 

"It's hard to take but you have to look at how he responded from Lords to Headingley and we will look to do exactly the same at Old Trafford. We're more than capable of turning things around very quickly."

A mid-afternoon collapse proved England's downfall as Joe Root's team fell to a 157-run defeat against India at The Oval on day five, handing the tourists a 2-1 series lead with one Test to go.

The hosts were facing a record chase of 368, with 291 remaining by the close of play on day four, but succumbed to their first defeat at The Oval against India since 1971 after a collapse of six wickets for 47 runs left them teetering.

Umesh Yadav sealed the win but Shardul Thakur's two wickets proved key – the first of Rory Burns and second of the in-form Joe Root – while Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah both impressed for their two wickets.

After adding 77 without loss on Sunday, Burns brought up the 100-opening stand with Haseeb Hameed and his own half-century, the first time England's openers have reached the landmark in the fourth innings since October 2016.

However, Thakur removed Burns with the next ball caught behind and, after surviving an lbw scare from Jadeja on five, Dawid Malan was run out by substitute Mayank Agarwal.

Hameed – dropped on 55 by Mohammed Siraj – survived until lunch, only to be bowled by Jadeja for 63 before Bumrah became the quickest Indian pacer to 100 Test wickets by dismissing Ollie Pope.

Bumrah's crushing inswinging yorker accounted for Jonny Bairstow and after Jadeja had Moeen Ali caught at short leg for a duck, England were reeling at 147-6.

Root (36) offered resistance but England's captain chopped on to Thakur, with Woakes (18) following.

Craig Overton (10) was dropped on three by Ajinkya Rahane and overturned an lbw decision, but his charmed life ended when Yadav broke through his defences.

Ollie Robinson and James Anderson faced an impossible task, with the latter caught behind off Yadav to wrap up the game.

Brilliant Bumrah

Kapil Dev (25 matches) was the previous fastest Indian quick to reach 100 wickets but Bumrah achieved the feat in his 24th outing.

England are the 27-year-old's favourite Test opponents, with Bumrah taking 36 wickets at an average of 24.08, while striking 18 times in this series – only Robinson (21) has produced more wickets.

England no longer invincible at The Oval

The hosts had lost only one of their last 13 Tests against India at The Oval before Monday (W5, D7), their last loss coming in August 1971 by four wickets.

England had also won three of the last such fixtures, though this defeat has left them facing three consecutive Test series losses if they cannot triumph in the final meeting in Manchester.

Trent Alexander-Arnold conceded he struggled in the midfield experiment with England against Andorra on Sunday.

The Liverpool star has been a key asset for Jurgen Klopp at right-back, who allows Alexander-Arnold and left-back Andrew Robertson licence to attack.

However, with Reece James, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker offering Gareth Southgate a wealth of depth at right-back, England opted to move Alexander-Arnold, who has registered 40 assists in all competitions since the start of 2018-19.

The 22-year-old recorded an 81 per cent passing accuracy in the first half, which increased to 87.1 per cent at the end of the game after a second-half change back to the right flank.

He also produced a game-high six crosses and two key passes – only bettered by Jude Bellingham (three) – but was uneasy when asked to reflect on his performance.

"It's a new role for me, a bit different, I think there's been a lot of questions being asked whether I can or cannot play in there and a lot of opinions being voiced over the last few weeks," Alexander-Arnold said to talkSPORT.

"It was an experiment the manager wanted to try out, but it was difficult to get on the ball for me, I found it a lot more difficult to get on the ball in those spaces.

"But whether I'm starting in there or starting [at] right-back I think naturally I just find myself drifting into midfield, getting the ball and affecting the game."

 

Since his debut in October 2016, Alexander-Arnold has created two chances per 90 minutes across all competitions for Liverpool.

Given he also averages 76.95 passing accuracy in that time frame, his self-assessment of the performance against Andorra perhaps seems harsh.

Those numbers increase minimally to 2.45 chances created per 90 minutes and 77.58 accuracy since his standout season in 2019-20 but the Liverpool academy graduate remained frank in his opinions of his first international midfield outing.

"The only difference was I was starting in there [in midfield] and it was a bit more difficult to really find the space that I wanted to," he continued.

"The second half we changed the system a little bit and I was able to find a lot more space and get time on the ball and get in positions that were fairly similar to playing in midfield anyway."

England cannot just focus on Robert Lewandowski in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier with Poland, Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has warned his players.

Lewandowski scored three times across Poland's victories over Albania and San Marino last week to make it 72 goals for his country in 124 caps.

Picking up from where he left off in 2020-21, when setting a new record for the most goals ever scored in a single Bundesliga campaign (41), the prolific striker has been in fine form this term.

He has scored in all six matches he has played for club and country, and netted 10 times in total to strengthen his status as arguably the finest striker on the planet.

The Bayern Munich man was injured when Poland lost 2-1 at Wembley in March but is fit and firing for this latest encounter between Group I's top two teams.

But while acknowledging Lewandowski's quality in front of goal, Southgate insists there is more to Poland than just one player, as Paulo Sousa's men showed in the reverse fixture six months ago.

"They played at Wembley without him and they gave a very good account of themselves," he said.

"We only scored really late on in the game to win it, so of course it's no different if we didn't have Harry Kane or Raheem [Sterling], then they would be a big loss to us.

"The very top players for any team in the world are a loss if you don’t have them and every coach will feel the same way.

"But when we're preparing the team to play against Poland, we're not just looking at Lewandowski.

"We absolutely respect what he brings and we know what a threat he is, but they've got some other very dangerous players as well."

 

Lewandowski's run of goals includes scoring in 13 successive Bundesliga matches stretching back into last season – only the late Gerd Muller (16 in 1969-70) found the net in more consecutive league games.

The 33-year-old surpassed 300 goals for Bayern with his recent hat-trick against Hertha Berlin, reaching 301 in just his 333rd appearance for the German giants. 

Again, that is a haul only bettered by Muller (566 goals in 607 matches) in Die Roten's history.

Lewandowski's goals in September's qualifiers have helped Poland to two wins from as many games, but they remain five points adrift of group leaders England at the midway point.

England have yet to drop any points and will be as good as assured of a place at Qatar 2022 should they extend that winning run in Warsaw this week.

"Clearly with Hungary's last result [losing 1-0 to Albania], Poland look like being the nearest challengers, which we probably thought when this group was drawn," Southgate said.

"It's a great incentive for us now. If we can go to Warsaw and win then we really are in control of the group."

England set up a tantalising fifth day of the fourth Test by making immediate inroads after India set them a record run chase at The Oval.

Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed chipped away at the target of 368, reaching 31 and 43 respectively, as England advanced to 77-0 at stumps.

Armed with a 99-run first-innings lead, England's hopes of establishing a lead in this series were dealt a huge blow after India totted up 466 batting second time around.

However, there remains the possibility of a famous home victory. Should England pull this off, they will take a 2-1 lead heading to the final Test at Old Trafford, but they would have to beat the highest total ever posted by a team winning against India from a fourth-innings chase.

That is currently the 342-8 achieved by Australia in 1977 at Perth. Tony Mann hit a century for Australia in that win and England need at least one batsman to step up and make a big score to anchor this innings.

There were positive signs as openers Burns and Hameed put on a half-century partnership, with Haseeb surviving a late lbw appeal as India used up a review, but England are still 291 short.

Earlier on day four, Rishabh Pant made 50, ending a run of three single-figure scores. Shardul Thakur plundered his second half-century of this match, adding 60 to his first-innings 57, prospering with the bat in the fourth Test match of his career and second of this tour.

Pant rode his luck, with England blowing a glorious chance to run him out when he was on 37. Pant set off for a run before scampering back, and Moeen Ali had the first chance to throw down the stumps. He missed, and Hameed, backing up, fumbled the ball when Pant was still well short of his ground.

Home captain Joe Root broke up a partnership of 100 when he had Thakur caught by Craig Overton at slip, and Moeen struck moments later to remove Pant when he took a sharp return chance off his own bowling as the India batsman looked to go over the top.

India were eight down, but their lead was 315, and the runs kept coming, Umesh Yadav flogging Moeen for a brazen six over cow corner, before hoiking a delivery Woakes over the ropes too. His 25 from 23 balls, plus 24 from Jasprit Bumrah, left England staring at their daunting target.

BURNS SEES OFF DUCK DANGER

It has been a year of mixed fortunes at Test level for Burns, who has five ducks in 2021 on England duty. When he has got off the mark, however, it has often been a different story, with Burns, including this ongoing knock, making 460 at an average for those innings of 51.11.

HAMEED CAN COME OF AGE

There are Ashes places at stake, and the high-tension moments that await England on Monday can be considered comparable to those that may await in Australia. One-time boy wonder Hameed can book his place on the plane, surely, if he converts this strong start into something special. His Test best of 82 came almost five years ago, and to top that here would give England a terrific platform.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.