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England named a familiar 13-man squad for the fifth and final Test against India at The Kia Oval, starting on Friday. Keaton Jennings has been given one final opportunity to prove himself and he will be joined once again by Alastair Cook in his farewell appearance.
Jennings had been under pressure for his place after scoring 159 runs at 19.87 in eight innings since his recall against Pakistan at Headingley in June. What goes in his favor is the fact that in this series no opener on either team has passed fifty, Jennings' battling 36 in England's second innings at the Ageas Bowl has earned him a reprieve.
Pope, who made scores of 10 and 16 in England's defeat at Trent Bridge to go alongside a debut knock of 28 at Lord's, is scheduled to play for Surrey in the first two days of their County Championship fixture against Essex at Chelmsford before joining the rest of the Test squad on Thursday morning.
Chris Woakes, who missed the fourth Test after picking up a quad strain, is also back in contention - a prospect that will cause England's management quite the headache after his Man of the Match performance in the second Test at Lord's. Woakes' fitness will be assessed over next couple of days and, if selected, he "should be okay", according to the team management.
However, England face quite the conundrum as plethora of all-rounders have staked a claim for selection in this series. Ben Stokes played vital roles with bat and ball at both Edgbaston and the Ageas Bowl, and is a surefire pick, while Moeen Ali - who might not have played at Southampton had it not been for Woakes' injury - picked up the Man of the Match award for his nine wickets in the match and important first-innings batting.
Add to the mix the irresistible Sam Curran, who responded to his omission at Trent Bridge with another precocious display in the fourth Test - once again, his lower-order batting was a fundamental part of England's win - and England face a significant challenge to find enough berths for so many players. The fall guy may prove to be the legspinner Adil Rashid, who has been a peripheral presence throughout the series.
At this stage, there is no decision on the identity of England's wicketkeeper. Jos Buttler filled the role in the fourth Test after Jonny Bairstow suffered a finger injury, but Bairstow clearly covets the role and was said to be responding more quickly than expected to treatment on his fracture.
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Author - Amit Singh
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