At 124-3, Pakistan were on the brink of making deep inroads into the total of 343 they needed to win the Third Test. One run and four wickets later, it was a case of when they lost not if. Steve Finn and Chris Woakes devastating spell consigned the visitor’s hopes of winning the series to the dustbin. Salvaging a draw is the best they can hope for, an outcome which seemed unlikely after they had won the first Test by 75 runs.
The Kia Oval hosts the final Test of the summer with England considering just the one change from Edgbaston. James Vince seems to have recovered from his hand injury, leaving England coach Trevor Bayliss just one selection quandary: does he bring in Adil Rashid and for whom?
It makes sense to include the Yorkshire leg spinner with Bayliss acknowledging that England will head for Bangladesh and India this winter with two spinners in the tour party. It’s believed that the Oval pitch is being prepared in the same way as the last season’s final Ashes Test when Nathan Lyon inspired Australia to an ultimately meaningless Test victory with the series already lost.
Rashid hasn’t featured in this series so far and could do with the match practice. Likewise the England fielders will benefit from seeing him in action at close hand and becoming familiar with his favoured field settings.
The likeliest candidate for omission is Steven Finn. Whilst he ended with just two wickets, the Middlesex seamer did enough to convince many that his test career isn’t over yet. A decent line and length was reflected in his economy over both Pakistan innings. The tour of the subcontinent is probably beyond him though with a place likely only to come about if one of the other seamers doesn’t travel.
Moeen Ali, Man of the Match in the last test will remain the lead spinner for Alastair Cook but Rashid’s inclusion will give him options. Pinning down Pakistan’s batsmen at either end with the variation of the turning ball from both bowlers will be a tempting option if the Oval pitch behaves as expected.
For the visitors, it’s the last chance to salvage the pride England so ruthlessly took away. Mickey Arthur, Pakistan’s head coach, offered the view that his side had won five of the eight sessions at Edgbaston. England, he admitted, were far more convincing in the other three.
It’s hard to see where the positives come from. The second innings collapse must be soul-destroying for the tourists, particularly as it was self-inflicted. As much as Woakes and Finn were accurate, they weren’t bowling bewildering balls.
As with most of this series, Pakistan fell through poor shot selection as much as England’s better play. That attitude is difficult to change in a matter of days and Arthur must be fearing for the worst if his team concede mental defeat before a ball is bowled.
England are rightly considered favourites for this match and should win comfortably to seal the series.
England – 4/7
Pakistan – 7/2
Draw – 16/5