It all comes down to a series finale that no one expected. The surprisingly competitive series between ICC heavyweights India and Australia will be settled (or not if we have another draw) in the fourth test starting on Saturday in Dharamsala. The surprise comes from the strong Australian performance in all of the matches so far. Often disappointing in India, and as was the case prior to Christmas when they were an absolute shambles when South Africa put them to the sword.
But the turnaround has been tremendous. They’re a real chance of gaining an upset series win.
The Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscombe’s engineered great escape in Ranchi mean the riveting series is still tied at one game apiece. Facing a challenging prospect of surviving for 100 overs on a deteriorating fifth-day wicket, the pair battled stubbornly and ensured Steven Smith’s first innings heroics (178*) were not in vain.
The Ranchi draw, where credit should also be directed to India (and more specifically Cheteshwar Pujara for an innings spanning 525 deliveries) for hauling down Australia’s huge first innings total of 451, sets up an intriguing finish to the series at Dharamsala.
The Dharamsala pitch located in the Himalayas and experiencing some rainfall might play more like an English green seamer than a sub-continent dust bowl. The result could be a recall for Mohammed Shami or Bhuvneshwar Kumar or both. Ishant Sharma who has done a today job without taking wickets could make way and then the selectors are faced with the tricky decision of whether to play only one spinner – which admittedly seems pretty unlikely.
We can’t see Australia making changes to their side even if the pitch turns out to be greener than expected. Jackson Bird is the backup seamer if they do go that way, or if they’re worried about the amount of work Pat Cummins was required to get through in Ranchi.
If there’s ever a time that captain Virat Kohli needs to stand up and come out swinging it’s in this series decider. In a series where he’s struggled with the bat, yet played the role of aggressive pantomime villain with aplomb, Kohli needs to turn that equation around. Less rousing the crowd. Less goading the Australians. More runs. He has just 46 runs in five efforts this series. However, he’s still the Indian favourite to top score – paying $3.40.
Slow bowlers are generally expected to flourish on the sub-continent, but if there’s one venue where seam might come into the equation, it’s Dharamsala. The pitch could be a green seamer and if it is, Josh Hazlewood could be deadly with his accuracy and wobble. He’s at $4.50 to be the top bowler in the first innings
India – $1.83
Draw – $3.75
Australia – $4
*All odds from Bet365.
We would love to see the series decided one way or the other but we think a flat pitch will once again see the match peter out to a draw.