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Preview: Test Series: India vs. England - prediction, team news, series so far

Sports Mole previews the 2024 fourth Test match between India and England, scheduled to get underway on Friday in Ranchi, Jharkhand.

Following a historic defeat, it is now a must-win situation for England as they head to Ranchi to take on India in the fourth Test of the series, set to get underway on Friday morning.

India's victories in the last two games have propelled them to a 2-1 series lead, leaving England with the imperative of either winning or avoiding defeat in this match to keep their hopes alive in the series.

Match preview

India celebrate taking an England wicket in the third Test on February 17, 2024.© Reuters

Since losing the opening Test, India have resumed business as usual in the sub-continent, displaying dominance and now leading the series with two matches to play following a commanding victory in the third Test.

In that match, India's top order shone brightly, putting up a formidable total of 445 runs in the first innings alone, with Rohit Sharma leading the scoring with 131 runs and Ravindra Jadeja contributing 112.

Yashasvi Jaiswal stole the headlines, though, amassing an incredible 214 of just 236 balls, while Shubman Gill added 91 runs at the other end before Jadeja bagged 5/41, bowling out their opponents for just 122 runs in their second innings.

The Men in Blue will head into this match full of confidence after that performance and have fond memories of this venue, having managed two solid performances in their last two visits to Ranchi, including scoring 603 against Australia in 2017 and beating South Africa by an innings back in 2019.

India's spin attack has proven to be as important as their destructive batting order in this series, and they will be looking forward to this match with this surface historically being a spin-friendly one, which helped Jadeja pick up nine wickets in that match against the Baggy Greens in 2017.

England batsman Ben Duckett celebrates century against India on February 16, 2024.© Reuters

Meanwhile, England's remarkable comeback victory in the first Test in Hyderabad now seems like a very long time ago, especially after their disappointing defeat by 434 runs in Rajkot last week.

Unsurprisingly, last week's defeat - England's second heaviest in Test cricket - has sparked numerous questions about the effectiveness of the side's aggressive Bazball approach on Indian soil.

While many would expect Brendon McCullum to continue with his attacking philosophy, there is no doubt that it would be much easier to implement if his side had batsmen who were in form at the moment, although the likes of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow have looked very poor and somewhat low on confidence.

Owing in part to inexperience, particularly among their spinners, England's bowling attack has not been sufficiently penetrative either, which has been a major factor considering their batsmen have only managed to get them past 400 runs once in the three matches so far.

However, despite an underwhelming last few games, the visitors cannot be written off just yet, as Ben Stokes's side have already proven their ability to pull off comebacks, most recently rallying from two games down in the Ashes to level the series 2-2 last year and beating the Proteas 2-1 after losing the first Test at Lords a year earlier.

Team News

India's Yashasvi Jaiswal celebrates hitting a century against England on February 2, 2024.© Reuters

Jasprit Bumrah, the world's number-one-ranked Test bowler, has been rested for this week's match in Ranchi, which could mean that West Bengal pacer Akash Deep is set to make his international debut for India.

Wicketkeeper-batsman KL Rahul will also miss the fourth Test due to injury, and his participation in the final match in Dharamsala is subject to a fitness check. Srikar Bharat will continue behind the stumps for the Men in Blue in this match.

After being released from the squad ahead of the third Test in Rajkot, Mukesh Kumar has rejoined the team in Ranchi this week and will be hoping for another chance in the Indian pace attack.

In light of England's two significant collapses during the third Test, many would likely agree that the batting order is an area that could do with some adjusting.

While Root has failed to impress, it feels unlikely that he will be in any danger of being dropped, although the same cannot be said of Bairstow after managing just four runs last time out and averaging only 17 in this series.

Should the visitors opt to shake things up with the bat, it would likely result in the reintroduction of Essex batter Dan Lawrence returning to the fray to give the lineup an injection of freshness, having been confined to a watching brief to this point.

India squad: Rohit Sharma (c), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan, Dhruv Jurel (Wicketkeeper), KS Bharat, Devdutt Padikkal, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Akash Deep

England squad: Ben Stokes (c), Rehan Ahmed, James Anderson, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow (wicketkeeper), Shoaib Bashir, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes, Tom Hartley, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Mark Wood, Dan Lawrence

Series so far

India lead the five-match Test series 2-1

Test 1: England won by 28 runs
England - 246 & 420
India - 436 & 202

Test 2: India won by 106 runs
India - 396 & 255
England - 253 & 292

Test 3: India win by 434 runs
India 445 & 430/4d
England 319 & 122

SM words green background

We say: India to win

England have to avoid defeat here to stay in the series, but that is much easier said than done as they head to a Ranchi pitch that looks to suit the Indian bowling attack perfectly, with large cracks visible in the pre-match images and a crumbly surface that will aid the spinners massively. The likes of Jadeja will be licking their lips to get going here, and we feel that the hosts will get the series wrapped up before we head to Dharamshala for the final Test.

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India's Yashasvi Jaiswal celebrates hitting a century against England on February 2, 2024.
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