India head into the fifth Test in Manchester starting Friday just one match away from the superb achievement of winning Test series in both Australia and England in the same year after the game got the go-ahead following a fresh coronavirus scare within the tourists’ camp.
The Old Trafford fixture was under threat after reports Thursday of another Covid-19 case involving an India support staff member.
India head coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun and fielding coach Ramakrishnan Sridhar had already been ruled out of the trip to Manchester after testing positive for Covid-19 during the fourth Test at the Oval in London.
That victory followed an innings and 76-run defeat at Headingley where India, in England since losing the inaugural World Test Championship final to New Zealand in June, were dismissed for just 78.
Jasprit Bumrah’s devastating spell of reverse swing — 2-6 in six overs — was key to England losing their last eight wickets for 69 runs.
In Australia, India recovered from being 36 all out in the series opener to win 2-1 and now lead England by that scoreline after another collapse.
“But we’ve shown time and time again that we are a top side…and that’s because of the belief and the passion that we have in this group.”
In Manchester, however, India must cope with the pressure of being favourites if they are to enjoy just a fourth series win in England following their 1971, 1986 and 2007 triumphs.
That 1986 season was the only one where India have previously won as many as two Tests in a series in England who, then as now, also lost 1-0 to New Zealand.
“You want to make sure you do the best thing for the player but you also don’t want to go into a Test match and someone go down injured and you’ve got one less bowler at your disposal,” said England captain Joe Root.
Root said not managing key pressure points had “really cost us”.
Root has scored 564 runs at an average of 94, including three hundreds, this series with England’s next-best contribution Bairstow’s 184 runs at 26.28.
Originally published as India eye historic series win over England after Covid all-clear