India will face Australia in the Third Test in Indore, with the match beginning on March 1st. Play is scheduled to begin at 9 am local time.
Having beaten the tourists twice inside three days in the first two Tests, India will go into the match supremely confident. Australia will want to give a better account of themselves than they managed in the first two Tests, where they struggled to cope with the Indian spinners.
Any doubt as to India’s participation in the WTC (World Test Championship) Final in June has now been ended. With Australia almost certainly their opponents, this is a chance to lay down a significant marker ahead of that match.
Smith back as captain
Steve Smith is back as Test captain for Australia. That is because regular skipper Pat Cummins has flown back home to be with his mother who is ill, and undergoing palliative care.
It has not been a good few weeks for Cummins. Not only has he skippered a side that have been out-classed in the first two matches, but he has also lost his status as the number one ranked bowler in Test cricket after a four-year reign, both Jimmy Anderson and Ravichandran Ashwin overtaking him in the ICC rankings.
It is a chance for Smith to experience a moment of redemption, having been sacked as captain following the infamous “Sandpapergate” ball tampering incident during the Australian tour of South Africa nearly five years ago.
Cummins is likely to be replaced by Mitchell Starc, although he is not fully fit, after breaking his finger during the Boxing Day Test against South Africa. He will need to wear a protective splint whilst fielding.
One of the other players at the heart of that scandal, David Warner, also will not play in Indore, having been ruled out of the last two Tests with the concussion that he suffered after being struck by a delivery whilst batting in Delhi.
Another recent injury absentee Cameron Green will come back into the side, which also helps strengthen their bowling attack.
India likely to be unchanged
India are likely to field the same XI as finished the last match in Delhi, practising the old adage of never change a winning side.
Spin is the key
So far, the Australian batters have proved collectively unable to cope with playing India in home conditions. Opener Usman Khawaja did score 83 in the second Test and Peter Handscomb made a fifty, but no other batter has managed a half century in this series so far.
Ravindra Jadeja, the leading wicket-taker in the series, and Ravichandran Ashwin, have both experienced joy so far, and they will be licking their lips at the chance of getting among the Australian batters once again.
At this stage, much of the issue may be psychological. Knowing that they are going to face a heavy diet of spin before they go out to bat, they already have a defensive mindset before they get to the crease.
And the fact that there has been more than a week between the Second and Third Tests is not likely to have helped matters. It would have been better for them to get back into action straightaway, without brooding on their mistakes and over-analysing them.
The pitch in Indore has a reputation for being good for batting, and, with relatively short boundaries, it aids stroke play. However, the ground staff will, no doubt, be under instruction to prepare a surface that offers something to the spinners.
The paying spectators will be hoping that the match at least goes to the fourth day.
The weather should be hot throughout the scheduled five days of the match, with maximum temperatures in the mid-30s Celsius.
It is very difficult to expect another dominant win by India, and the match is unlikely to go the scheduled distance. Australia need at least one, but preferably several of their batters to stay at the crease and produce a big score, giving their bowlers something to defend.
However, the psychological scars inflicted by those defeats in the first two Tests may already be too deep, and there is a feeling that some of the Australian players cannot wait to get back on the plane home.
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