After a memorable victory for Australian grit in Pune and a euphoric triumph for Indian spirit in Bengaluru, the caravan moves to Ranchi for the third Test in the 2017 Border-Gavaskar Trophy. With both sets of players not giving an inch to each other, the action has been nothing short of pulsating.
Expect that to continue in a venue which enters the Test fold.
The stakes are very high and the focus as always will be on the experienced stars to rise to the occasion. Let us take a close look at all factors relating to the penultimate Test which begins on Thursday at the JSCA International Stadium Complex.
#5 Will the Bengaluru friction spill over to Ranchi?
Despite the Test overseeing a manic tussle between bat and ball, the DRS controversy and the on-field verbal exchanges hogged all the attention in Bengaluru. Even as both skippers remained firm in their versions, it took a joint statement from BCCI and CA to finally defuse the tension.
However, with the series entering a tipping point, the debris could boil over to Ranchi.
Extra Cover: The underbelly of competitive cricket
On the eve of this match, Indian coach Anil Kumble reiterated that his men will not be shying away from their natural aggression on the field. Needless to say, the Australians won’t be the ones to back off from confrontations. The stage is set for another high-voltage clash.
Team Form (Last 5 matches in reverse chronological order)
India – WLWWW
Australia – LWWWW
#4 Another bowler-friendly pitch in the offing
A couple of days ahead of the game, the pitch appeared as if it was baked by coal and not under the sun. With the surfaces in Pune and Bengaluru receiving a scathing assessment from the ICC, this one has come under the scanner even before a single ball has been bowled.
From the image above, the epicentre can be seen sporting a dark brownish look. Amidst allegations of the home team getting to choose the track from three options, this one is likely to offer turn right from the outset.
As with the first two matches, the toss assumes extra significance in Ranchi too. Soaring temperatures are further expected to heat up the action right throughout the Test.
#3 Injuries force Australia re-jig
As they often say, extreme situations evoke extreme measures. With the pitch rendering the second seamer surplus to the team’s requirements, India could opt for three spinners and retain Umesh Yadav as the solitary pacer. In such case, Kuldeep Yadav appears likely to get the nod ahead of Jayant Yadav.
The visitors have to make at least two changes to cover for the injury-enforced departures of Mitchell Marsh and Mitchell Starc. Taking the conditions into account, Glenn Maxwell may sneak into the Test eleven for the first time since November 2014. There is also plenty of anticipation surrounding Pat Cummins’ re-entry into the game’s longest format.
Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav and Umesh Yadav
Matt Renshaw, David Warner, Steven Smith (c), Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade (wk), Pat Cummins, Steve O'Keefe, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood
#2 Steven Smith 5000, Murali Vijay 50
Here are a few key statistics surrounding the game.
Smith needs 76 more runs to become the 20th Australian batsman to complete 5000 Test runs. If he does get to the landmark in Ranchi, his average will be the second highest in the 5000-run club (across all nationalities) after Sir Don Bradman.
Vijay is set to become the 29th cricketer and 5th regular opener to play 50 Tests for India.
The JSCA International Stadium Complex in Ranchi will be the 26th venue to host Test cricket in India.
Jadeja requires 66 more runs to become the 10th Indian all-rounder to complete the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets.
If India go in with only one fast bowler, it will be their first such instance since the 2015 Nagpur Test against South Africa.
#1 Teams seek runs from lower-order
With the match likely to take shape as another low-scoring thriller, runs from the lower-order could create a wedge between the two teams. In this regard, Starc’s absence will be a huge blow for Australia as his lusty hitting strengthened their bid for the Pune ambush.
Extra Cover: Ravindra Jadeja 2.0 has arrived and how
Even though Saha added a handy 20 in the second innings in Bengaluru, India’s lower-order has been found wanting. Unlike their steadiness in the recent past, the likes Ashwin and Jadeja have all struggled to come to terms with the bowler-friendly pitches in this series. Apart from being expected to deliver with the ball, they might also be needed to shore up the batting lineup.