IINDIA VS ENGLAND
After registering an overwhelming victory in the second Test at Chepauk, a confident India now head to the newly-built Motera Stadium in Gujarat looking for a series lead in the first pink-ball Test of the series. The series is now levelled at 1-1, and a victory in the day-night Test will most likely seal the series for the hosts.
Here’s our preview of the third Test between India and England:
INDIA BACK TO WINNING WAYS
The second Test at Chepauk had all the elements of a comprehensive team display by the Indians. Rohit Sharma has answered all his critics with a single knock – the Hitman’s 161 showed the world why his spot in the team is unquestionable. Skipper Virat Kohli and Vice Captain Ajinkya Rahane have put on classy knocks, while Rishabh Pant continued with his dynamic style of play, which has become a trademark of his innings. Ravichandran Ashwin proved his mettle with both the bat and the ball, cementing his place as the go-to all-rounder in the squad, while the debutant Axar Patel had a dream start to his career with a five-wicket haul.
It has become almost casual for this Indian team to register emphatic comeback wins – they lost the first Test both against Australia and England, only to dazzle fans with their spectacular performances later on. If India can repeat their performance from the second Test, it will be another easy victory for Kohli’s men.
India’s batting line-up looks settled, with both Shubman Gill and Rishabh Pant filling up the two previously weak spots. There are unlikely to be any changes at the top of the order. After being rested for the second Test, Jasprit Bumrah is set to come back to haunt England with the pink ball. Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin will likely retain their spot in the team, as India might leave out Kuldeep Yadav to bring in an extra pacer for the seam-friendly pink-ball Test.
CAN ENGLAND BOUNCE BACK?
England had entered the second Test as favourites – Joe Root’s men looked to have mastered Asian conditions. But then came the humiliating loss at Chepauk, and the ensuing blame game on the condition of the pitch. What seems to have not worked for England, however, is the rigid rotation policy that they have adopted to keep their players rested for the numerous tournaments up ahead. England desperately miss the combo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad – while the senior players are only performing better with age, they are not being supported enough from the other end.
England’s batting line-up is still centred around Joe Root, with the team’s fortunes depending on his knocks. The absence of Jos Buttler and less-than-ideal knocks by Ben Stokes are hurting their ability to convert good starts into huge scores. The team needs to do much introspection before they head into the pink-ball Test.
It remains to be seen what the final playing XI for the pink-ball Test will be, but James Anderson is a sure inclusion. Moeen Ali has returned home, so Dom Bess will fill the role of the second spinner. While fans are desperately waiting to see Anderson and Broad play together once again, Jofra Archer is a more probable pick for the spot.
PINK BALL FORTUNES
The pink ball revolution in the oldest format of the game came when Test cricket was under increasing threat due to the popularity of limited-overs cricket. It certainly fulfilled its purpose, with some of the most exciting Tests in recent years being held with it – none of the 15 Tests so far have ended in a draw.
England are certainly the more experienced team in the format, playing three Tests with the pink cherry. They lost two of them, both away from home. India have a more mixed record, winning the first pink-ball Test against Bangladesh at home, but losing the recent Test against Australia during a historic top-order collapse.
TEST CHAMPIONSHIP ON THE LINE
More than the series lead is on the line for the Indian team, as they look to seal a spot in the World Test Championship final. England must win both the remaining Tests to qualify for the final, while India need to win at least one and not lose the other. Home advantage and form tip the scales towards the hosts.
The last pink-ball Test India played in resulted in a spectacular batting collapse in the second innings. While neither team is likely to stoop so low, the presence of Jasprit Bumrah and James Anderson rules no scenario out of the match. India are likely to take a lead in the series and seal a spot in the World Championship Final.
Pitch Report: The pitches at Chepauk have generated much discussion in recent days, and the tracks at Motera are likely to hog the limelight as well. Expect a spin-friendly track that will favour the hosts.
India Predicted XI: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj.
England Predicted XI: Dominic Sibley, Rory Burns, Joe Root (C), Ben Stokes, Daniel Lawrence, Ben Foakes (WK), Ollie Pope, Dom Bess, Jack Leach, Jofra Archer, James Anderson.
When: February 24 – 28, 2021 (Saturday to Wednesday) 02:30 PM (IST)
Where: Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera.
Where to Watch: All matches of the series will be telecast live on Star Sports Network and Disney+ Hotstar.
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