BBL 10: Melbourne Stars part ways with Ben Dunk midway through the season
13 Jan 2021
Although England lost the last Test in Chennai by a big margin and their selection calls came under the scanner, the fact that the four-match series is still alive and they can still make a come back to win the series augurs well for the next chapter of the series. The contest now will shift from the southern part to the western part of India in Ahmedabad at the refurbished Motera Stadium scheduled to host its first international encounter.
What happened in the second Test was all but on expected lines as India, hurting after facing their first loss at home since 2017 came roaring back in the series. They took a gamble of playing on a surface that could have brought English spinners in the game by providing more assistance than usual, but Rohit Sharma stood tall to steer them out to a position of strength. The rest of the job was well done by Ravichandran Ashwin, first with the ball and then bat and Axar Patel to remind England what they were up to, albeit it arrived a Test match too late.
It will be easier for England to get into a siege mentality and feel that the monster of spin and bounce that they must have been discussing for a long time has finally arrived, but Joe Root’s side has shown enough spirit to suggest that they are not going to fold without putting a fight.
It won’t be an easy task to stop what former England captain Micheal Vaughan calls a ‘juggernaut’ from the Indian side given the difference in the level of performances from both sides was on display in the last game. India gained ascendency in the second Chennai Test on the back of batsmen who were short of runs and their return to form does not necessarily bode well for the tourists. After Rohit Sharma’s return to his dominating best, and Rahane back to grinding it out for runs in the middle, the Indian batting unit appears to be a well-oiled machine while the addition of Axar Patel has not let fans and Kohli miss Jadeja with the ball as of yet.
With Axar Patel picking up a fifer in the second innings and bowling tight lines as Jadeja used to do, it’s almost certain that he has jumped to become the second spinner in the line-up and that puts a spotlight on the place of Kuldeep Yadav who barely broke through in the playing XI after a gap of two years.
If it was not to be a pink-ball Test, experts and fans would have written England off after such a shambolic performance in the second Test in a turning pitch, but the pink ball should ideally allow England a way back in the game, and make up for a riveting contest.
But, the spectacle of a Day-Night Test and the uncertainty the Pink Ball brings with itself gives England an advantage - of unknown conditions for both sides. Judging by history, this game should be dominated by pacers as the pink SG ball will aid bowlers more than usual, and England have two of the greatest ever pacers in their squad to maximise the advantage in their favour.
The age-old narrative of not changing a winning team has been dismantled brutally in the series when England made as many as four changes in their playing XI after winning the first Test in remarkable fashion. The story is likely to remain the same with India now contemplating bringing another pacer or an all-rounder in place of the third spinner due to the help they are supposed to get from the pink ball.
Kuldeep is likely to be benched if India decide to bring an extra pacer in the line up however the team management will have their task cut out to select one among Mohammed Siraj and Umesh Yadav who has been declared fit for this Test match.
Or else, India may also think of giving Hardik Pandya a chance as he can bring balance in the team and can also chip in with overs (subject to fitness) when needed with the pink ball under lights. However, Hardik’s inclusion is least likely among all the probable combinations for India in the Pink-ball Test given his lack of bowling in the recent past.
For England though, there are tough calls to make on the selection of top-order batsmen. Rory Burns has looked woefully out of sorts and the management might bring Zak Crawley in his place.
Dan Lawrence looked good in Sri Lanka but the overall better quality of the Indian bowling line up has not allowed him a breathing space in the first two Tests and most likely he will be replaced by an incoming Jonny Bairstow.
In the bowling department, England face the dilemma of the composition because of the pink ball. There are reports suggesting that the tourists might play one spinner in Jack Leach and unleash three front line pacers including James Anderson and Jofra Archer but that will put them in a disadvantageous position if they win the toss and bat first.
Date and Time: February 24 -28, 2:30 pm IST, 09:00 am GMT
Venue: Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera, Ahmedabad
Broadcast and Live Stream: Star Sports, Hotstar
Ideally, for a Day-night Test, the pitch must have at least 6mm of live grass on it, but it seems unlikely that will be the case in the third Test between India and England. There is no doubt in any analysts’ mind that the pitch will turn from the first day, and it is just about the amount of assistance it will provide to spinners.
The pitch since the day it was unveiled has had a thick layer of grass on it, but players from both sides are in agreement that all of it will be shaved off come the match day at Motera.
England will hope though that it will have carry for the seamers along with some hopes of swing in the air as well, while India will be hoping for anything but turn and bounce from the pitch.
Umesh Yadav has passed the fitness Test and replaced Shardul Thakur in the main squad. He will now compete with Mohammed Siraj to be the third pacer in the team after Ishant Sharma who will be featuring in his 100th Test match and Jasprit Bumrah if India decide to go ahead with three pacers-two spinners pronged bowling attack.
India don’t have to do a lot of pondering over the selection of the other 10 players with having all other players performed at some stage in the last two Tests.
Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Siraj
Jonny Bairstow has returned to India after spending some time with his family in the UK and is certain to replace Dan Lawrence at the number three position, where he batted in the Test series against Sri Lanka.
Pacer Jofra archer has recovered from the elbow injury that kept him out of the second Test and is certain to partner James Anderson with the new ball.
If England decide to go with two pacers and two spinners, Dominic Bess will make his come back into the team, although low on confidence, knowing Moeen Ali was asked to stay on to play in the third Test. However, Ben Stokes’ lack of bowling in the second and first Tests and a probable niggle can put that plan in jeopardy and England may also opt for a three-pacer line-up, with Leach being the sole spinner in the team.
If the tourists decide to take a gamble with a strong pace attack, one of Olly Stone or Stuart Broad who has not had much to do in the last Test with the ball will come in the team.
Dom Sibley, Rory Burns/Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Ben Foakes (wk), Jofra Archer, Jack Leach, James Anderson, Stuart Broad/Dom Bess