On an emotional roller-coaster for most part, India and Australia have faced-off in two volatile matches that tested both nerve and skill. Pitches have been demanding, and duels fierce.
The low-scoring Tests, high on both intensity and verbal spats, have been ultra competitive. And situations have thrown up heroes. This dramatic and rather ill-tempered Border Gavaskar series – rival captains and celebrated batsmen Virat Kohli and Steve Smith were caught up in a behavioural storm – is on a razor’s edge going into the third Test beginning here on Thursday.
With the scores 1-1 in the four-Test series, the stakes are high. Both teams will seek to grab Ranchi’s first ever Test by the scruff.
Much focus has been on the surface. Smith and Aussie coach Darren Lehmann had a rather close look at the pitch on Wednesday.
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The pitch might play better than it looks since it may not be very dry. Spells of rain in the city leading up to the Test have meant the surface had to be periodically kept under covers. The curator, resultantly, hasn’t really been able to prepare a bone dry wicket.
Showers forecast for Day 3 & 4
Showers have been forecast on day three and four of the Test. If it rains, then this will have a direct bearing on how the surface plays. Lack of adequate sunlight and the covering up of the surface will slow down the breaking up of the wicket.
- India (from): Virat Kohli (captain), M. Vijay, K.L. Rahul, Chesteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahana, Karun Nair, R. Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R. Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Jayant Yadav, Abhinav Mukund, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
- Australia (from): Steve Smith (captain), David Warner, Matt Renshaw, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Mathew Wade (wk), Pat Cummins, Josh Hazelwood, Nathan Lyon, Steve O’ Keefee, Marcus Stoinis, Usman Khawja, Mitchell Swepson, Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird.
- Match starts at 9.30 a.m .
Yet, as the match progresses, spinners are increasingly likely to come into the picture. There is a possibility that, like in Bengaluru, the bounce on this track might be low. Both teams will not want to bat last here.
From a batting perspective, use of feet and shot selection will be crucial to success. Judgement of length is vital as it is this attribute that guides footwork. If the ball turns, then the batsmen need to remember that the real game is square of the wicket. They need to keep the good deliveries away and wait for opportunities to essay the cut, pull and the sweep.
Murali Vijay’s 50th Test
India will seek runs from its skipper Virat Kohli. His duels with the Aussie spin duo of Nathan Lyon, who seems to have recovered well from a sore spinning finger, and Steve O’Keefe should be engrossing. Kohli has to play his natural, aggressive game, be decisive and look to play than ‘leave.’
Classy opener Murali Vijay – he practised here on Wednesday – appears to have put his shoulder injury behind and is set to play his 50th Test.
India could continue with a four-man attack unless it decides to pick an additional spinner in either Jayant Yadav or Kuldeep Yadav for Karun Nair.
The Aussies might choose between Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis for the slot vacated by the injured Mitchell Marsh. Maxwell has the edge for he brings with him the X-factor and has this ability to disrupt attacks. Left-handed specialist batsman Usman Khawaja is also in the frame.
And Pat Cummins should replace the mercurial Mitchell Starc. Cummins has speed and aggression and may do some damage during his short bursts.
The Aussies will be up against the top bowling combination – in these conditions – with R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja holding the joint No.1 ranking in Tests.
Will the strangely subdued David Warner come out with a different game-plan against Ashwin? The action could be gripping.
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