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Will England build on benchmark set in third set or will India stifle any resurgence

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MANCHESTER, England - Until the third test at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, it had been a desperate year for all involved with England cricket. Attempting to rebuild the team after a 5-0 Ashes whitewash in Australia which had decimated confidence, England lost a one-day and test series to Sri Lanka.

India arrived for a five-test series, with the first drawn on a lifeless Trent Bridge wicket since rated as "poor" by the International Cricket Council, who duly warned The England and Wales Cricket Board. At Lord's for the second test, Ishant Sharma induced a batting capitulation by bouncing out the middle and lower order on day five for test-best figures of 7-74, just as England had moved 121 runs short of its target with five wickets in hand.

But something changed in the third test. England's bowlers were consistent in line and length, its batsmen produced huge innings and every session belonged to the home side, as it defeated India by 266 runs for its first test win in almost a year.

The teams head to Old Trafford in Manchester, knowing what the other is capable of. Will India stifle any resurgence in confidence from England and retake a lead in the series, or will England now continue to reach the benchmark it set itself in Southampton? Here are five things to know ahead of the fourth test at Old Trafford:



England captain and opening batsman Alastair Cook was defiant in the face of monumental pressure surrounding his captaincy and position in the side heading into the third test. He was averaging 24 since his previous century in May 2013, and England had not won since August 2013. While Cook's wait for three figures continues, scores of 95 and 70 in Southampton suggest he is heading toward the form that has seen him fire 25 test hundreds already. His unbeaten 70 was the backbone to England's second innings of 205-4 declared, setting India an unassailable target of 445.



Strike bowler James Anderson cut a desperately glum figure in the press conference alongside Cook immediately after England's victory. Despite being awarded man of the match and becoming the leading wicket taker in the series on 16, he was facing up to the prospect of being banned for England's next four test matches for a level three charge of pushing and abusing India's Ravindra Jadeja in the first test. Cook called for "common sense to prevail" and Anderson was cleared of the charge on Friday, although the decision could yet be appealed. Anderson is only 12 wickets behind Ian Botham's record England wicket total of 383 dismissals, and will look to move closer to the target now he is available for the fourth test.



One bowler who set an unwanted record in the third test was India debutant Pankaj Singh, who finished with match figures of 0-179, the most expensive debut without a wicket in test history. It was particularly harsh on the medium-fast bowler, who arguably looked the most menacing of all in India's attack as he replaced Sharma, whose leg injury could rule him out of the fourth test. Singh should continue, and was backed at the end of third test by India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

"Pankaj was very impressive," Dhoni said. "He was hitting the right length, he got a fair amount of movement out of the wicket and was unlucky not to get a few wickets. Overall, I was very happy with his performance."



Ajinkya Rahane was the only India batsman to emerge with credit in its second innings at the Rose Bowl, with an unbeaten 52. As the wickets tumbled around him, mainly falling to spinner Moeen Ali who ended with 6-67, Rahane was composed and disciplined. His 52 from 157 deliveries followed a tremendous 103 in the first innings at Lord's, as India overturned any advantage England had from winning the toss and electing to bowl on a green and grassy wicket. It was a crucial innings in India's victory.



Dropping catches has been a recurring problem for India this series, and one that England punished them for in Southampton. Cook was dropped on 15 by Jadeja and went on to make 95 in the first innings, while Shikhar Dhawan, at first slip, dropped Jos Buttler on 23, who then made 85. Dhoni acknowledged it's harming his team, but feels his options are limited.

"It definitely needs to improve," Dhoni said after the third test. "But the three fielders standing at slips are the best fielders we have got right now."

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