Ollie Robinson in England’s Bowling Equation for Fourth Test

England may return to their one specialist quick strategy for the must-win fourth Test in Ranchi, with Ollie Robinson making his tour debut. Ben Stokes’ comeback as a seam-bowling allrounder could also help.

The tourists are yet to make a concrete decision on the exact make-up of their bowling line-up but are leaning heavily towards the balance they struck in the first two Tests, where Mark Wood, then James Anderson, operated independently alongside three spinners, and Joe Root. Anderson and Wood then played the third Test, which India won by 434 runs to lead the series 2-1.

Tactical Choices

Robinson is set to return to provide fresh legs after the pair sent down 76 overs and fielded on all four days in Ranchi. Wood may be rested. Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum must decide whether to recall off-spinner Shoaib Bashir for Anderson or stay with the veteran seamer, who has six wickets at 35.83 in two appearances. If England expects extreme spin, Dan Lawrence, a decent offspinner, might start the Stokes-McCullum period as a batting reinforcement.

Shoaib Bashir or Anderson

Robinson’s last competitive match was a July Test against Australia at Headingley. Despite underperforming in the Ashes, he has 76 wickets at 22.21 in 19 caps and can draw on his experience in Pakistan last winter, when he took nine wickets at 21.22 with an economy rate of 2.47 on unfavorable surfaces.

Pitch Assessment

After seeing the pitch at the JSCA International Stadium, the spin-dominant attack has returned. Two days until the Test. England was shocked by the cracks and expected plenty of turns throughout the match, with variable bounce coming into play sooner rather than later.

“There’s a lot of cracks,” England vice-captain Ollie Pope remarked. The platey texture and recent wetness dry it out. Current conditions don’t indicate a good wicket. One side seems excellent, but the other has many platey cracks. We see it that way now. I suppose we’ll wait until the Indian team inspects the wicket tomorrow to decide.”

It appears that batting from the far end is outside the right-hander’s off stump and from this end, the left-hander’s. It seems like it’s down the wicket, plated on one side and good on the other.

Pitch Assessment

Stokes’ Bowling

After suggesting he would bowl again in the series, the England skipper bowled at batters in Wednesday’s first Ranchi training session since his November left knee surgery. His long session was almost entirely against Jonny Bairstow, with England men’s selector Luke Wright as the umpire to watch his front foot. He appeared robust and debriefed with England team physician Glen Rae afterward.

The second Ashes Test at Lord’s in June was Stokes’ last competitive bowling match, with 197 wickets at 32.07. He may break his “pinky promise” to team physio Ben Davies not to bowl in India.

“There’s a chance,” Pope said of Stokes bowling this week. “We’ll see—he didn’t confirm it in the changing room. Today he bowled hitters. If he pulls up well, we’ll see him with the ball in the game.”

Stokes’ Bowling

On Monday, McCullum stated he would slow Stokes down if he felt he was progressing too quickly. Pope, Stokes’ deputy, knows he’ll have to manage Stokes on the field.

I think it’s hard to pull the ball out of his hand when he’s going. However, I’ll ask him before the game if he wants anything like that. If he’s confident in his knee, you have to believe medical advice and his judgments. That’s what matters, and if he needs pitch advice, I can help.

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