England is looking to do something more, better and different than it did in the last two Tests.
The psychological edge it held over India after a solid start in Rajkot, was lost with the match in Vizag. Now it's time for the third Test starting here on Saturday. Another Indian win will rule out the possibility of England pocketing the five-match series.
Given the pitch – less grassy than usual and designed for the ball to grip – the toss becomes very crucial. Batting first is an obvious choice and Alastair Cook is more desperate than Virat Kohli to put runs on the board. England's best chance of levelling the series is by pressurising India with runs – much like it did in Rajkot.
A couple of changes in the England line-up appear certain. Injured Stuart Broad will make way for Chris Woakes and wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler looks set to replace Ben Duckett. In the spin department, off-spinner Gareth Batty, 39, could well come in for an injured Zafar Ansari. A change in batting order, too, cannot be ruled out.
For India, Parthiv Patel returns to Test cricket after eight years to replace the injured wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha.
Irrespective of the combination, it is common knowledge that Indian spinners will continue to be more effective than the England pace bowlers on this tour. In fact, the off-spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Jayant Yadav may have already dented the confidence of the left-handers in the England line-up. Add to it the left-arm spin of Ravindra Jadeja and England’s worries shows no signs of diminishing.
If the surface offers slow and low bounce, England could get into serious trouble. In that case, the surface will not only negate the impact of its three-man pace attack but also make it difficult for the batsmen to deal with the upbeat Indian spinners.
On this ground, in the first half of winter, the fast bowlers look to bowl longer spells to exploit the conditions assisting seam movement in the first session. The second session of the first day should be the best for batting, with the soft winter sun helping matters.
Last November, against South Africa, the pitch was prepared for the Indian spinners. Lucky to win the toss, India scored 201 in the first innings and 200 in the second, but won the low-scoring match by a whopping 108 runs inside three days!
Ashwin opened the attack in both innings, took five wickets in the first innings and three in the second. Moreover, Imran Tahir could not pick more than six wickets in the match and that hurt the South Africans.
Since England is better equipped in the spin department, a similar pitch is ruled out. The lush-green outfield here will also mean the medium pacers have to wait longer and work harder to bring reverse swing into play. In any case, India appears better equipped than England to deal with the challenges.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), M. Vijay, K.L. Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, R. Ashwin, Parthiv Patel (wicket-keeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, Amit Mishra, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Karun Nair, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar.
England: Alastair Cook (captain.), Haseeb Hameed, Joe Root, Ben Duckett, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wicket-keeper), Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Zafar Ansari, James Anderson, Jos Buttler, Gareth Batty, Steve Finn, Gary Balance and Stuart Broad.
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