|England v India, fifth Specsavers Test|
|Venue: The Kia Oval. Date: 7-11 September. Time: 11:00 BST|
|Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app. Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website.|
Jonny Bairstow will keep wicket in an unchanged England side for the fifth Test against India at The Oval.
Bairstow broke a finger in the third Test but played as a batsman in the fourth and Jos Buttler took the gloves.
“He’s done a really good job for us in the past 18 months and deserves the opportunity to keep it,” said England captain Joe Root.
The final Test of the series, which begins Friday, will be opener Alastair Cook’s final match for England.
The home side have already won the series, having taken an unassailable 3-1 lead by winning in Southampton on Sunday.
Gloves change hands again
The injury suffered by Bairstow ignited the debate over who should keep wicket for England after Buttler, their limited-overs gloveman, returned to the Test side at the beginning of the summer.
Bairstow’s batting record is superior when he keeps, while Buttler has performed better as a batsman without the gloves.
However, all of Bairstow’s Test hundreds have come in the first innings of the match, before keeping wicket. Buttler’s maiden ton in the third Test in Nottingham came after he deputised for Bairstow.
Before the match in Southampton, Root would not be drawn on what would happen when Bairstow became fit to keep, saying there were “no assurances” being offered to the Yorkshire gloveman.
At The Oval on Thursday, Root told BBC Sport: “Jonny keeping is how I see it currently. Things might change in the future, you never know, but I think this is the most sensible thing.
“If you look at the workloads and the amount of cricket we play, sharing it out between formats seems like a sensible option, making sure long-term we have everyone on the park making sure they are fresh and ready to go.”
‘Emotional’ Root hoping Cook finishes on a high
Cook will bow out as England’s most capped player, their highest runscorer in Test cricket and with more Test centuries than any other England batsman.
The 33-year-old was England skipper when Root made his Test debut in 2012 and handed the reins to the Yorkshire batsman at the beginning of 2017.
Cook announced his retirement on Monday, after the win in the fourth Test, but Root revealed that he was told before the match in Southampton.
“It was quite an emotional conversation and it was difficult to keep everything quiet,” said Root.
“He has been a massive part of our dressing room for such a long time, beyond my time as an England cricketer and going back to when I was a young lad watching him play.
“I’m sure it will be an emotional week for a lot of people, especially him, but I’m sure he will get the reception he deserves. He’s been a great servant to the game and a great servant to English cricket. I really hope he finishes on a real high.”
Cook has had 12 different opening partners since the end of 2012, with England struggling to find a replacement for Andrew Strauss.
Cook himself has struggled of late, averaging only 18 with the bat in 2018 but, despite the uncertainty at the top of the order, Root said he did not try to talk Cook out of his decision.
“He was adamant he wanted to call time on things and he seems very at peace with his decision,” said Root.
“I don’t think he’ll be nervous. I think he’ll try to enjoy the week and so he should. It’s a fabulous occasion for him and for us, we want to make sure we finish on a real high for him.”
England’s batting-order U-turn
Root confirmed that he will once again bat at number four in this match, having moved down from number three after the first innings of the Southampton Test.
There, Moeen Ali was promoted to three after making 40 in the first innings batting at number seven.
Moeen bats at number three for his county Worcestershire and made a double century against Yorkshire in August but, before the match on the south coast, Root said that England “get the best” out of Moeen when he bats at seven.
On Thursday, Root confirmed that number four is his preferred position and that the new line-up is the “best option” for winning the final Test.
“Moeen has performed exceptionally well for Worcestershire and number three. It gets the best out of him as an all-round cricketer. I’m excited to see him go this week and hopefully make a really big contribution.
“Number four is my preferred position but different situations might change things down the line. I don’t think anything is ever written in stone and you have to be adaptable. We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s certainly my most preferred position.”
England: Cook, Jennings, Moeen, Root (c), Bairstow, Stokes, Buttler, Curran, Rashid, Broad, Anderson.
‘We have played some pretty good cricket’ – Rahane
Regardless of the result at The Oval, India will retain their place at the top of the world Test rankings.
Though they will leave with a third successive Test series defeat in England, they have acquitted themselves well.
Aside from a heavy defeat at Lord’s, they had chances to win the first and fourth Tests, while they registered a big victory in the third match at Trent Bridge.
“I feel we have played some good cricket, but England have played better than us. They won small sessions,” said vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane.
“This is definitely an important Test match. We want to give our best and finish on a winning note.”
Like England, India’s batting has been fragile. The tourists have been reliant on captain Virat Kohli, who has scored more than double the runs of any player on either side in the series.
“The batsmen feel bad as our bowlers bowled so well and we could not support them,” added Rahane.
“The way Virat has conducted himself, the consistency he has shown has been amazing. Many people were saying many things about him about whether he will be able to score runs in England, but Virat concentrated on his cricket.”
Rahane also said that off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who appeared to be hampered by an injury in both the third and fourth Tests, is fit to play at The Oval.