India vs England fourth Test: The road to World Test Championship final
The Englishmen have a monumental task ahead as Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel test their skills and mindset at Motera over the next five days.
India captain Virat Kohli (left) will rely on spin duo Ravichandran Ashwin (right) and Axar Patel to deliver the goods in the final Test.
Despite India’s repeated attempts to shift the narrative from a sub-standard surface for the third Test, the pitch will continue to remain the focal point on the first morning of the fourth Test against England in Ahmedabad. While the visiting team has been cautious in reacting to the pitch, it will be interesting to see if Joe Root and Co. can at least put up a fight after being annihilated in the last two Tests.
The performance of spin bowlers Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel in the second and third Test erased the memory of England's victory in the opener. The Englishmen have a monumental task ahead as Ashwin and Axar test their skills and mindset at Motera over the next five days. Besides the spinners’ onslaught, England will also literally have to counter the dry heat with the mercury soaring with every passing day. The rising temperature may also result in the pitch crumbling faster than anticipated.
If England can get its act together, it can spoil India's race to the World Test Championship final. Virat Kohli's men need to win the last Test to set up the grand finale against New Zealand at Lord's in June. Kohli down the WTC angle during his media interaction on Wednesday. Still, with veterans Ajinkya Rahane and Ishant Sharma having equated the Championship with the World Cup, the Indian camp will be eager to seal the final spot in style.
In its quest, India will be without pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah for the second time in the series. He is on leave to prepare for his wedding. Umesh Yadav is set to return in whites in Bumrah's absence. The Vidarbha pacer joined the squad ahead of the pink-ball Test having recovered from the calf injury he suffered in Australia. With his outstanding record in India, he is likely to be preferred over youngster Mohammed Siraj. Though Washington Sundar did not have a major role in the pink-ball Test, he is set to play in the series-finale.
Barring Rohit Sharma, no other India batsman has been able to score runs consistently so far in the challenging conditions. They would be eager to turn the tide.
England, meanwhile, has no option to recall off-spinner Dom Bess at the cost of one of its pacers. It remains to be seen who partners Jofra Archer on Thursday. As for the batting department, England will be tempted to replace Jonny Bairstow, who returned with a pair at Motera last week, with youngster Dan Lawrence. But due to their rotation policy all through in 2021, the combination can be difficult to predict.
The teams (from):
India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Vice-capt.), K.L. Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant (w.k.), Wriddhiman Saha (w.k.), R. Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj
England: Joe Root (Capt.), Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Dan Lawrence, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Ben Foakes (w.k.) Dom Bess, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Olly Stone, Mark Wood
On-field umpires: Nitin Menon and Virender Sharma; Third umpire: Anil Chaudhary; Fourth umpire: Shamshuddin; Match referee: Javagal Srinath.
Hours of play: 9.30am to 11.30pm; 12.10pm to 2.10pm; 2.30pm to 4.30pm (can be extended till 5pm)
Live on Star Sports