Jonny Bairstow will play as a specialist batsman, while Moeen Ali and Sam Curran replace Ollie Pope and Chris Woakes.
The 28-year-old has had to undergo a lengthy spell on the sidelines after aggravating a lower-back injury during the third ODI between England and India in July.
In his first competitive match since the injury, the pacer shone in a 124-run win for India A over their South African counterparts in the third-place play-off match of the quadrangular series in Alur.
Bhuvneshwar bowled nine overs on his return and picked up 3-33 with the help of one maiden.
Batting first, India A put up 275-7 on the board in their 50 overs with skipper Shreyas Iyer top-scoring with 67.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar with three wickets as India A finish 3rd. Must consider having him around for the last Test.— Saurabh Malhotra (@MalhotraSaurabh) August 29, 2018
In reply, the South Africans were bundled out for just 151 with Deepak Chahar and Mayank Markande picking up two wickets apiece.
That Bhuvneshwar was able to bowl nine overs on his competitive return bodes well for the Indian team management who could be tempted to call up the pacer for the fifth and final Test against England which gets underway on September 7.
Following his injury in the ODI series, Bhuvneshwar was ruled out of the first three Tests though the team management had kept the door open for his return in the final two matches.
The seamer had returned to India to continue his injury rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru. However, his progress was not enough to warrant a selection in the squad for the final two Tests which saw young Prithvi Shaw and Hanuma Vihari being handed their maiden India call-ups.
The five-match series is at a crucial juncture with the hosts currently leading 2-1.
However, history is on England’s side despite India’s 203-run win at Trent Bridge.
Australia’s Ashes team of 1936-37, led by Don Bradman, are the only side in the history of Test cricket to have recovered from 2-0 down and a five-match series.
Here, we look at the key talking points ahead of the crucial showdown at Ageas Bowl.
Green tops greets both teams at Ageas Bowl
Given India’s batsmen historic struggles in England, one would have expected the hosts to prepare the juiciest track of the series so far. The hosts’ pace attack remains one which is built to thrive in swinging conditions, especially with veteran James Anderson leading the line. The 36-year-old has already picked up 17 wickets in the series so far and is just six wickets away from levelling Glenn McGrath’s tally of 563 Test scalps.
That notion though, hasn’t come to pass in the series so far with England shying away from preparing a swinging minefield in the first three Tests. India’s now formidable overseas pace attack might have played its part in England’s thinking in this regard. The Indian pacers have so far picked up 38 of the 46 England wickets to fall so far in the series, even with Ravi Ashwin’s presence in the XI.
On Tuesday, a pitch with a heavy greenish tinge greeted the two teams at Southampton. However, it won’t be a surprise to see some of the grass trimmed heavily, come Thursday, with the hosts wary of the threat being posed by India’s pacers.
Two days out... Quite a green tinge on the Ageas Bowl strip. Not sure why you would give such a wicket to this Indian pace attack. Let's see how it looks at toss time. #ENGvIND pic.twitter.com/I2gTeFX0nS— Chetan Narula (@chetannarula) August 28, 2018
India seek to banish 2014 Southampton memories
Thursday will mark only the third instance of the Ageas Bowl hosting a Test. Commissioned in 2001 as the new home of the Hampshire County Cricket Club, the venue played host to its first-ever Test in 2011 with Sri Lanka being the visitors. That match ended in a draw while the second Test at the venue saw India come calling in 2014.
They entered the match full of confidence after drawing one and winning another in the two preceding Tests against the hosts. What followed was a heavy 266-run defeat for the visitors which completely changed the momentum of the series as England eventually went on to triumph 3-1.
The Indians will be hoping that the momentum generated by their Trent Bridge win is not derailed once again at Southampton this time around.
Pressure growing on Root’s shoulders
England’s top-order has been misfiring for some time now with the side losing four wickets or more under 100 in half of their past 62 Test innings. With the openers in Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings struggling to buy any runs at the moment along with the finger injury to Jonny Bairstow, the expectations of shouldering the run-scoring burden for England is even greater on the skipper currently.
After starting the series on an excellent note with an 81 in the first innings at Edgbaston, Root has struggled heavily himself with his subsequent four innings all ending short of 20. The typical confidence once associated with the Englishman at the start of his innings has not been visible for some time now and he will need to rediscover his very best if he hopes to inspire England’s shaky looking batting card at the moment.