Manchester Test: England Seek Repeat Win as India Ponder Options
Victory by the huge margin of 266 runs in the third Test at Southampton last week saw England level the five-match series at 1-1. It also ended a run of 10 Tests without a win for Alastair Cook's side and saw the captain himself return to form with two fifties.
England face the welcome problem of dealing with the consequences of winning ahead of the fourth Test against India at Old Trafford starting on Thursday.
Victory by the huge margin of 266 runs in the third Test at Southampton last week saw England level the five-match series at 1-1.
It also ended a run of 10 Tests without a win for Alastair Cook's side and saw the captain himself return to form with two fifties, although it could all have been so different had he been caught in the slips on 15 in the first innings.
"Now everyone knows what it's like (to win), the challenge is 'can we repeat that at Old Trafford, and try to win the series?'", said Cook.
England had another 'victory' less than a day after their Southampton success.
James Anderson escaped a ban after International Cricket Council code of conduct commissioner Gordon Lewis dismissed disciplinary charges brought against him by India following his alleged confrontation with Ravindra Jadeja during the drawn first Test in Nottingham.
Given the fast-medium bowler, man-of-the-match in Southampton with a return of seven for 77, is the series' leading wicket-taker with 16, England's relief was understandable.
However, the ICC said on Tuesday they were looking into Lewis's decision to both clear Anderson and rescind Jadeja's 50 per cent match fee fine.
Nevertheless, Anderson -- now just 12 shy of equalling Ian Botham's England Test record of 383 wickets -- remains free to play at Old Trafford, his Lancashire home ground.
While Moeen Ali produced a decisive second-innings return of six for 67 in Southampton to quieten talk regarding his 'part-time' off-spin, the performance of England's back-up seamers in support of Anderson and Stuart Broad was a concern.
- 'Unselectable' Finn -
The Middlesex fast bowler was sent home early from England's disastrous tour of Australia, having not featured in the 5-0 Ashes thrashing and been deemed "unselectable" by then one-day coach Ashley Giles after 'losing' his action.
Remedial work, designed to sort out run-up problems and a habit of knocking the stumps over with his right knee, under the guidance of Middlesex coach and England selector Angus Fraser, has seen the 6ft 7in Finn take 44 County Championship wickets at under 30 apiece so far this season.
The pitch at Old Trafford is known for being 'lively' and all-rounder Chris Jordan, with England having no need of his batting in Southampton after Cook declared twice, could lose his place to Finn after a poor bowling display last time out.
"It will depend on what England see in the pitch over whether Steven plays," Fraser told the Daily Telegraph.
"But is he bowling as well as when he played for England in the past. The answer is yes."
For India, the need to match Ali's threat could see off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin play his first Test this year in a bid to bolster an attack that looked a bowler 'light' at the Ageas Bowl.
"Moeen bowled well (at Southampton) but we let him bowl well," said India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
"It's important to be positive against spinners."
In the absence of injured Lord's star Ishant Sharma, also ruled out of the fourth Test, India lacked pace and a physical threat.
Jharkand fast bowler Varun Aaron, who played his only Test two years ago, could come into the side although it would be tough on Pankaj Singh were he the bowler to make way.
Singh recorded the worst wicketless figures by a Test debutant -- none for 179 -- in Southampton but was unlucky with both dropped catches and lbw appeals.
Someone with far less cause for complaint were he to be omitted is opener Shikhar Dhawan, who has scored just 122 runs in six innings this series with a top score of 37.
Fellow left-hander Gautam Gambhir, who played the last of his 54 Tests against England in December 2012, is waiting in the wings.