Ahmedabad, March 3
India, leading the Test series 2-1, will not take their foot off the pedal while taking England for another “spin” in the fourth and final Test, which begins here tomorrow.
India would aim to not just complete another dominant home performance, but also ensure themselves a place in the World Test Championship final. A draw would ensure that Virat Kohli’s men would enter the final, to be played against New Zealand at Lord’s in London from June 18. However, if England beat India to earn a 2-2 series draw, it would enable Australia to reach the summit clash against New Zealand.
While a draw always seems a safe option in a game like this, Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri, with their attacking instincts, wouldn’t like to play a defensive game.
India laid a venomous spin trap at the refurbished, renamed Narendra Modi Stadium in the previous Test. It helped that the heavily-lacquered pink ball behaved erratically, and England were demolished inside two days. Twenty-one of the 30 wickets that fell were dismissed by straight deliveries, even as some balls spun sharply.
Axar Patel deceived the batsmen with straight and fast deliveries, and England could never recover.
Both Ajinkya Rahane and Zak Crawley feel that the track for the fourth Test is similar to what they got in the previous two matches. However, since the red ball will not skid off the surface — compared to the pink ball — batting would be less difficult.
Despite being India’s most prolific Test captain in terms of numbers, Kohli knows that he hasn’t great success in the ICC events, which his predecessor MS Dhoni had. In this ICC Test Championship, Kohli would be itching for a course-correction and build his own legacy as captain.
For that, he wouldn’t pull back punches. And on another track that is likely to help his ‘snipers’ Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin — who have a combined tally of 42 wickets in the series — Kohli would expect them to dominate. Indian spinners have accounted for 49 of the 60 English wickets in the first three Tests, and their domination is likely to continue at the Narendra Modi Stadium.
However, India’s batting has left a lot to be desired in the series. It’s just that England have been worse in their last four innings.
There is no sound explanation for the Indian batsmen’s failure to dominate in their own backyard.
Rohit Sharma’s 296 runs in three games are 120 more than the second-best Ashwin’s 176 runs. Save Rohit, no Indian batsman seemed too comfortable on the turners on offer. Kohli, despite two fifties, hasn’t had the best of times while Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Shubman Gill have all had only one innings of note.
With Jasprit Bumrah opting out of this Test, Umesh Yadav is expected to be back in action, and could be partnered by Ishant Sharma or Mohammed Siraj.
For England, Jack Leach with 16 wickets has done his bit but he does have his limitations and with his pace, which is on average 10km less than Patel, he is unlikely to consistently trouble the batsman. But he could again play a significant role on a turner, and may expect Dom Bess for company. — PTI
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