The deadlock broken in the most comprehensive manner, hosts India would look to do an encore by putting England through another rigorous spin test when the two teams square off in the third cricket Test starting in Mohali on Saturday.
After their 246-run win in the second Test, Virat Kohli and his boys have got the requisite confidence needed to outclass the visitors, who put up a spirited fight in the first two matches.
However, as luck would have it, Kohli will not be able to field the winning combination as Wriddhiman Saha is out with a thigh strain, ensuring that Parthiv Patel gets to play a Test match after eight long years.
Last time when Parthiv played a Test, current coach Anil Kumble was the captain while Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly were part of the side. India were at the receiving end of the then newly introduced technology known as Decision Review System.
The PCA Stadium track, once a paradise for speedsters which later became a bowlers’ graveyard only to undergo another transformation into a rank turner, will be the cynosure of all eyes.
A rank turner may not be on offer but the 22-yard strip that is devoid of any grass will surely help the tweakers as the game progresses. One can brace for at least another four-day show if not full five days.
As far as Kohli is concerned, the backdrop could not have been more interesting and the wild allegations of ball tampering levelled by a section of British media could surely act as a catalyst for him to do a Faf du Plessis. A Du Plessis-like century will be a befitting reply to all the conspiracy theories that have been floated.
In sublime form with 337 runs under his belt, the Indian captain, on his day, can make life really difficult for the English bowlers, who are certainly feeling the effect of his blazing blade.
While Jimmy Anderson did make an impressive comeback, the absence of Stuart Broad will definitely affect England as the lanky fast bowler performed superbly despite injury during the Visakhapatnam Test match.
Add to it Zafar Ansari’s sore back has also increased England captain Alastair Cook’s worries. Ben Duckett, after a wretched run, may have to sit out making way for an impact player like Jos Buttler.
In this situation, there is every possibility that Kohli could make mincemeat of the England attack as seamer Chris Woakes and Ansari’s possible replacement, off-spinner Gareth Batty, might not have the wherewithal to stop the Indian ace.
Cheteshwar Pujara (262 runs in 2 Tests), who has shown a lot of positive intent with back-to-back centuries, will like to consolidate his position in the side with another impressive effort.
While India’s first innings efforts in both Test matches — 488 and 455 — have been good but it has not exactly been a collective one with only Murali Vijay contributing up the order with a hundred, besides Pujara and Kohli.
The only person who could be a touch worried is Ajinkya Rahane as his total runs from 4 innings is a mere 63.
For someone who has the distinction of scoring a hundred at both Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and the Lord’s, Rahane is too good a player to fail for long.
The talented Mumbai batsman was seen speaking to Australian batsman Dean Jones after his net session on Thursday.
While it seemed like a chance meeting, Jones was seen trying to show Rahane a thing or two about footwork. For KL Rahul, fast-tracked into the playing XI for the second Test by pulling him out of Ranji Trophy, skipper Kohli and the selectors have shown how eagerly they waited for his recovery from a hamstring injury.
Rahul has always had good scores to show after a failure and the Mangalore lad would want to do the same.
India’s bowling is more or less sorted with Ravichandran Ashwin leading the charge.
One of India’s premier match-winners, Ashwin is at the cusp of another record. Another five-wicket haul will put him at par with Kapil Dev’s 23. Considering it will be Ashwin’s 42nd Test match, the record would be phenomenal purely in terms of numbers as Dev had this record in 131 matches.
Out of the 32 England wickets taken by bowlers, the spinners have accounted for 24 of them which includes 11 in the name of Ashwin, 6 for Ravindra Jadeja, 4 for rookie Jayant Yadav and 3 for Amit Mishra.
The contribution of Mohammed Shami with the new as well as the old ball cannot be discounted. He might have taken only five wickets but the dismissal of Alastair Cook, when his stump was broken into two pieces, can easily be termed the ‘ball of the series’.
Shami could again show his prowess in reverse swing. While Umesh Yadav has also bowled his heart out, the presence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar gives the team management another option of a potent swing bowler, who has now increased his pace and also developed the reverse swing.
For England, there had been some good performances but nothing spectacular. While Haseeb Hameed can be termed the ‘find of the tour’ for England, they would expect one among Ben Stokes (233), Joe Root (206) or skipper Alastair Cook (207) to score a ‘Daddy Hundred’, which the visitors desperately need.
Adil Rashid may have got the maximum wickets (13), but he has been inconsistent at times giving away too many loose deliveries.
In all, it could well turn out to be a battle of attrition for Cook and his men.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Chesteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Parthiv Patel (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Karun Nair, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra
England: Alastair Cook (captain), Haseeb Hamid, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Ben Duckett, Adil Rashid, Jake Ball, Gary Balance, Jos Buttler, Steve Finn, Chris Woakes, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Gareth Batty, Moeen Ali, Zafar Ansari.
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