India will play Australia in the Fourth Test which starts in Ahmedabad on Thursday, March 9th. The match is scheduled to begin at 9 am local time.
The home side will be looking to wrap up the series, not only because it will guarantee that they keep the Border-Gavaskar trophy, but also because it will ensure their place in the WTC final in June, against Australia at the Oval.
Having won the first two matches in this series, India seemed to have almost booked their place, before they were beaten within three days in the Third Test in Indore.
That win guaranteed Australia their own place, and India remain favourites to join them, even if they lose. New Zealand would need to be whitewashed by Sri Lanka in their own forthcoming series, for the Sri Lankans to deny them. India, though, will not want to leave anything to chance.
All eyes on the pitch
All eyes will be on the pitch for this match. Had everything gone to plan and India won the third test, then the intention was to prepare a green surface that would more closely replicate what India can expect at the Oval in June.
However, the events of Indore in the third test have left the home side with a dilemma.
In the first two matches in Nagpur and Delhi, the ground staff had prepared spin-friendly conditions, which the home pair of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja exploited to maximum effect.
However, In Indore, the tactic went too far and back-fired, with Nathan Lyon helping spin his side to victory.
The ICC subsequently ruled the pitch as poor, gave Indore three demerit points, and said that it had not provided a fair contest between bat and ball.
The risk is that, if they prepare another turner, then the conditions might suit the Australian spinners as much as those for the home side. However, in the event of a flatter surface, then Australia have the batters to exploit it.
Captain Rohit Sharma, though, has made no secret of what Australia can expect, insisting that spin is their strength and that, as the home side, they should be looking to capitalise on it.
Australia will be unchanged and will once again be led by Steve Smith, with regular test captain Pat Cummins remaining back in Australia with his mother who is sick.
India have added Kuldeep Yadav to their squad and could decide to turn to the left arm wrist spinner in the case of Axar Patel, although that would be at the expense of their batting line-up. Patel is capable of scoring some useful late-order runs, but he has been given sparing opportunities with the ball in this series so far.
History on India’s side
History is very much on the side of India. The defeat in Indore was a rare one at home, and for them to lose two matches in front of their own fans in succession is virtually unknown in the modern era.
From an Australian viewpoint, they have nothing to lose, and they have already achieved their main objective on this tour which was to qualify for the WTC final. From this point onwards, anything else will be a bonus.
India will need to consider what happened in Indore as a one-off aberration and not let it affect them psychologically. They should remember how they played in the first two games, and hope that both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are feeling confident going into the match, because likely both will have big parts to play.
Having been beaten so comprehensively in Nagpur and Delhi, Australia were not expecting much in Indore, and they will be cheered how they performed there. They can afford to adopt a relaxed approach to this game, knowing they have very little to lose.
What is almost certain is that anybody holding tickets to the fourth and fifth day of this match must be considered among life’s optimists. None of the first three tests lasted longer than three days, and there is little reason why it should be any different this time around.
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