‘Every chance’ of two seamers in third Test – Pope


England bowler Mark Wood bowls in the nets, watched by James Anderson, during tour of India
Mark Wood could be recalled to the side if England go in with two seamers in Rajkot
Venue: Rajkot Dates: 15-19 February Time: 04:00 GMT
Coverage: Live text commentary on BBC Sport website & app with daily Test Match Special podcasts on BBC Sounds

England vice-captain Ollie Pope says there is “every chance” the tourists will field an extra seamer in the third Test against India in Rajkot.

England have picked only one specialist fast bowler for each of the first two Tests, with the series level at 1-1.

On Tuesday, two days before the third Test begins on Thursday, the Rajkot pitch had a covering of green grass.

“If it stays like that, there’s every chance two seamers will be played,” batter Pope told BBC Sport.

“I don’t want to give away too many secrets, but at the minute there’s a little bit more grass on it. It looks a pretty good pitch.

“We always like to make a decision here the day before the Test begins because conditions can change, especially with the heat on it all day.”

If England do opt for the extra seamer, then Mark Wood could join James Anderson in the XI. Wood had his left leg strapped on Tuesday but was still able to take a full part in training.

Ollie Robinson, who bowled a long spell in the nets, would be another option.

One of young spinners Rehan Ahmed, Shoaib Bashir and Tom Hartley would have to make way, with leg-spinner Ahmed perhaps the most likely to miss out.

Ahmed, 19, was at training on Tuesday after experiencing a “discrepancy” with his visa as England returned to India following a break in Abu Dhabi.

This was a separate visa issue to the delay suffered at the beginning of the tour by Bashir, who had to return to the UK.

An England statement said: “There was paperwork discrepancy with Rehan Ahmed’s visa. The local authorities at Rajkot Airport were supportive, enabling Rehan entry on a temporary visa. “The correct visa should be processed and issued in the coming days. He will continue to prepare with the rest of the squad ahead of the third Test.”

England are definitely without senior spinner Jack Leach, after he left the tour because of a knee injury.

India remain without Virat Kohli, who will miss the rest of the series for personal reasons, while batter KL Rahul is still injured. Uncapped pair Sarfaraz Khan and Devdutt Padikkal are competing for a spot in the middle order.

England captain Ben Stokes will play his 100th Test in Rajkot, 11 years after making his debut against Australia in Adelaide.

Stokes, 32, will become the 16th England man to reach the milestone, the latest landmark in a storied career.

“What a legend of the game,” said Pope. “There are so many great memories from his career.

“It’s a credit to him. What he has put his body through – he gives 110% to every Test he plays, plays every one like it is his last. You never know what you are going to get.

“He can do ridiculous things in the field, with the bat and with the ball. Long may that continue over the next few years.”

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