Buttler returns after missing the fourth Test while on paternity leave, while Leach is in line to play his first Test since England’s innings defeat to India in Ahmedabad six months ago. Sam Billings, who was included in the fourth Test squad as cover in Buttler’s absence, has returned to Kent.
With just three days between the fourth Test – which ended in victory for India by 157 runs after going the distance – and the start of the fifth on Friday, England face some big selection decisions, particularly in relation to their bowling attack.
James Anderson, Chris Woakes and Ollie Robinson looked weary having toiled for nearly 150 overs in India’s second innings and Craig Overton suffered a blow to the elbow while batting, although he has been included in the latest 16-man squad announced on Tuesday.
England could opt for two spinners, while Mark Wood, returning from injury, and Sam Curran, who was dropped for the fourth Test, are available to freshen up the seam stocks. Wood resumed bowling practice at the end of the third Test after injuring his right shoulder in the previous match at Lord’s.
Chris Silverwood, England head coach, confirmed that Wood would come into contention for a place in the starting XI.
“We have got some aching bodies, I’m not going to deny that,” Silverwood said. “So we obviously have to keep an eye on that. He could come back and if he does, he will obviously add that pace for us. If the pitch is abrasive as it usually is at Old Trafford there should be reverse swing.”
Silverwood also said he would liaise with Anderson about whether he needed to be rested.
“It’ll be a discussion that he and I will have together,” Silverwood said. “He will have input into that, without a shadow of a doubt. James knows his own body. He will certainly give me an honest opinion of where he is at, and it’s certainly something I will listen to.
“I know what it’s like, he won’t want to miss any cricket. We have to make sure we look after him. Although there is a gap between the final Test and what’s in front of him, he’s certainly someone I want to make sure is looked after.”
Meanwhile, England will be seeking a sharper performance in the field if they are to secure a series-levelling victory in Manchester, having missed six chances at The Oval.
Their batting, as ever in recent times, needs to improve to an extent where they can drop their reliance on the in-form Joe Root – especially in the absence of Ben Stokes, who remains out indefinitely on a mental health break. While half-centuries to Ollie Pope and Chris Woakes in the first innings and openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed in the second were useful, England lost 10 for 110 in their second innings with no one from No. 5 down reaching 20 amid a pivotal spell from Jasprit Bumrah, who removed Pope and Jonny Bairstow cheaply as England lost 4 for 6.
“We have to recognise situations first and foremost,” Silverwood said. “The spell from Bumrah was as good a Test bowling spell as you are going to see but at the same time if we want to be where they are we’ve got to manage those situations.
“He blew us away with that spell and made it very difficult for us but it is certainly something that we have to learn and that is what being ruthless is being all about.
“India at times have proved a really tough nut to crack… it was an outstanding bowling performance. It seems they get half an opportunity and they push the door open and go for it.”
India will be without Ravi Shastri, Bharat Arun and R Srindhar, their head coach and bowling and fielding coaches, after the three tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday. The rest of the India squad returned negative PCR tests the following day and Silverwood had no concerns about the possibility of the fifth Test being called off.
“I hope the guys who have Covid are fine and well, and obviously wish them a speedy recovery,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned and from what I’m hearing the final Test is going ahead as planned and we’re looking forward to it. Obviously we want it to go ahead because we want to bounce back and even this series up.”