If Ben Stokes is able to return for England at Nottingham, the selectors will have a tricky decision to make, writes Ben Grounds.
The all-rounder is awaiting the outcome of his trial for affray at Bristol Crown Court while he will also learn his fate regarding a cricket disciplinary case that has been put on hold pending the conclusion of criminal proceedings.
The trial is not expected to end until Wednesday, 24 hours after England are expected to name their squad for the third Test.
Sky Sports News understands the Cricket Disciplinary Committee would wish to deliver its verdict on Stokes within a week of beginning their investigation, meaning he may have to wait for the fourth Test at the Ageas Bowl on August 30 to be considered.
Stokes will be desperate to make up for lost time having already missed an Ashes series but, having performed so well, England are in a position of strength without the need to rush him back into the fold.
And captain Joe Root has welcomed the competition created in his absence.
“Ben is a huge part of this squad and he was missed not being here this week but what it did do was create an opportunity for Chris (Woakes) to perform,” he said. “In that respect, it is nice to see guys taking opportunities and that is something we want to harness as a team.
“It is an example to the guys on edge of the team that when you get your chance, make it as hard as possible to leave you out. It is a great headache for us to have going into next week.”
Stokes will have witnessed the growing maturity of Sam Curran into a Test all-rounder, while the home conditions mean it is likely that the same 13 will be named in the squad, with Moeen Ali and Jamie Porter as back-up.
The dramatic 31-run victory in the opening Test at Edgbaston was followed by a much bigger margin of success – a crushing second triumph by an innings and 159 runs at Lord’s.
2:04 Watch highlights from day four of the second Test between England and India
India know they need to find some form very soon to give them any chance of salvaging the series and the Lord’s demolition job raises the question over whether Stokes’ return to the side is imperative.
After the nail-biter at Edgbaston, England were imperious at Lord’s – in India’s second innings, James Anderson and Stuart Broad took four wickets each while Woakes took two.
The conditions went in England’s favour from start to finish with India bowled out twice inside 83 overs and three days. Woakes and Curran played their part with the ball, with the Warwickshire man and Jonny Bairstow the heroes with the bat.
Anderson and Broad both love bowling at Trent Bridge, but while the tourists have serious problems with their batting line-up, the England selectors could be set for a selection headache of their own.
The excellence of Broad and Anderson has, at times, masked the deficiencies at the top of England’s batting order, and the reliance on Bairstow to steady the ship at 89-4 signals there is plenty of room for improvement.
Ollie Pope impressed, more so than openers Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings – as well as Root himself – making the inclusion of Stokes and potential moving of Bairstow further up the order an intriguing debate.
Adil Rashid on Sunday became just the 14th player and first Englishman in 13 years to complete a Test match without bowling, batting, taking a catch or being involved in a run out.
It was a bizarre set of circumstances where conditions were ideal for swing bowling, meaning Rashid was reduced to little more than a spectator.
The leg spinner was not part of England’s slip cordon as he emulated the achievement of Gareth Batty during the innings and 261-run hammering of Bangladesh at the Home of Cricket in 2005.
England’s new National Selector, Ed Smith, irked the bowler’s county, Yorkshire, by recalling Rashid to the Test squad, but could his position now be under threat if Stokes becomes available?
Further cross-examination awaits, but Rob Key would have no hesitation in drafting him straight back into the side.
Key, who played 15 Tests for England, told the The Cricket Debate: “I would make Jos Buttler ‘keeper and I would leave out Curran.
“He’s done really well, but that is what I’d do. You have to have Buttler keeping for me as Bairstow is one of the best batsmen in the world, put him as number four with Pope as five, Stokes six, and Buttler seven.
“Curran can come again at another time. It’s going to be a seaming pitch, then absolutely leave out the spinner, but if it’s a flat surface and you want a spinner then you don’t drop Rashid. It’s horses for courses.”
“I think that’s a fair enough call,” added Bob Willis, who took 325 wickets in 90 Tests. “Someone’s got to give way. I said Rashid because people will say you don’t need five seamers – four will do.
“But the fact is that two of those seamers are top-class batsmen as well. Smith has already upset one or two, and he’s looking like quite a ruthless selector.
“It’s a difficult one as you can’t leave Stokes out and you want the variety of Curran’s left-arm over because when you go abroad, that variety is going to be important.
“We saw how innocuous four right-arm medium bowlers are bowling over the wicket on flat decks.”
Will England wrap up the series at Trent Bridge? Join us from 10am on Saturday on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event to find out.
England vs India
August 19, 2018, 10:00am
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