James Anderson and Ishant Sharma lead England v India Trent Bridge battles

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England and India clash in the third Test of the five-match series at Trent Bridge on Saturday, with the hosts carrying a 2-0 lead into the contest following a comprehensive victory at Lord’s.

Here, we take a look at the key battles that could go a long way in deciding the outcome of the Test in Nottingham.

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Runs needed in the middle-order

Jos Buttler v Ajinkya Rahane

There is some speculation that Buttler could be the man sacrificed to make way for Ben Stokes’ return but it would be unusual to drop the vice-captain given his recent comeback from Test hiatus. He has had a quiet series and looked iffy from the get-go when starting his innings, making scores of just 0, 1 and 24 so far. However, England’s No6 has the quality to turn it on at any point. Indeed, if Buttler contributes, the hosts will be eyeing a big total and probably a series win.

Similarly, Rahane has not pulled up any trees and has looked out of sorts at No5, with 18 runs his best outing thus far. In each of his four innings, he has nicked off to pace behind and like many of his colleagues, has struggled with the moving ball and getting his bearings outside off-stump.

But, like Buttler, he is a gifted player and will want to atone for a quiet series so far. However, will have to work on his angles and playing the ball within his zone at the crease, instead of reaching for the Duke.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Mohammed Shami of India successfully appeals for the wicket of Jos Buttler of England during day three of the 2nd Specsavers Test between England and India at Lord's Cricket Ground on August 11, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Jos Buttler has looked frail to full and straight deliveries thus far.

James Anderson v Ishant Sharma

Incredibly, England’s swing king is only 10 wickets away from equalling Glenn McGrath’s haul of 563 Test wickets. Given the way the 36-year-old is bowling, you would expect him to level that feat and go past the great Australian at some points during the series.

The carrot of becoming the most successful Test pace bowler of all time and moving up to fourth in the all-time Test wicket standings behind only Anil Kumble, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan would be a remarkable feat. But for now, helping England to seal the series on his favourite bowling ground will be his top mission.

Anderson has 13 wickets in the series so far and 60 from nine Tests in Nottingham, at an average of just 18.95.

If he can extract movement from a deck famed for it, so should Ishant Sharma, who is India’s chief striker. The tall quick has looked good, claiming seven wickets at 28.28, but will want to get back to the form he showed at Edgbaston after a quiet outing at Lord’s. It is essential for the tourists that the 29-year-old does plenty of damage with the ball while maintaining control. You always get the feeling there is more to come from him.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 03: Ishant Sharma of India celebrates dismissing Ben Stokes of England during day three of Specsavers 1st Test match between England and India at Edgbaston on August 3, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Ishant Sharma took a five-fer at Edgbaston.

Openers under scrutiny

Keaton Jennings v KL Rahul

The South African-born batsman’s second-coming in Test cricket has been quiet but satisfactory. Jennings has passed most tests over his technique and temperament, looking assured alongside Alastair Cook. However, so far he doesn’t have enough runs to show for his effort.

Knocks of 42, 8 and 11 have flagged up his inability to build on steady starts while he does seem susceptible to straight balls, with Mohammed Shami taking his wicket twice having turned up his speed.

Facing a walking wounded India side lacking in confidence is his ideal chance to get a big score and he can ill-afford to spurn this chance. In fact, this is another defining Test in his short England career and he needs to find a way of keeping the selectors’ faith.

KL Rahul was bumped up to open at Lord’s, and although the conditions were very much against India’s batsmen – especially in the first innings – like many others, he failed to get to grips with Anderson who dismissed him twice. Worryingly for India, he seems to be lacking in confidence and has a poor recent record overseas. Can he fix it? Yes, because he’s a fine batsman but he will really need to stand up and be counted here.

KL Rahul faces up in the nets at Trent Bridge.

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