The fourth and final Test gets underway in the early hours of Thursday morning and there is still plenty to play for with India needing to avoid defeat to reach the World Test Championship final, while England can salvage a draw in the series with a win.
Sadly for the tourists, things have been on a downward spiral since they had the audacity to win the opening contest by a handsome margin too and it is difficult to see them halting the slide.
On what has been the flattest of the three pitches so far, England romped to a 227-run win on the back of a superb double hundred from Joe Root, but once the ball has turned early there has only looked like being one winner.
The criticism of the pitches has come from far and wide but it is worth remembering that India made scores of 329 and 286 in the second Test as they won by a massive 317 runs.
The argument for the third Test seems a little more valid, given it didn’t last two days and the hosts were also bowled out cheaply, but there is no doubt that the home side simply played better than England as they won by ten wickets to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
England Should Expect More of the Same
It would be safe to assume that the pitch for the fourth Test, played at the same Ahmedabad venue as the third, is going to offer assistance to the slower bowlers – and in that regard there can likely be only one winner.
Since that opening score of 578, England have not passed 200 with their total tally in both innings in the third Test not even reaching that mark, and it is difficult to see where and how match-winning runs will come from the Three Lions.
The captain himself is an obvious and worthy favourite at
37/20 to top-score for his side first time up but he didn’t manage that in either innings in the two defeats and everything about England’s batting feels like something of a lottery, including the lineup.
Leach Can Be England’s Spin King
The same could be said for the pace bowling options as this is going to be another spin-off, with Dom Bess certain to be recalled, and both he and Jack Leach priced at
5/2 to top England’s wicket-takers in the first innings.
Preference goes to Leach as he has been bowling nicely since overcoming Rishabh Pant’s onslaught in India’s first innings of the first Test and will at least still be in a rhythm.
It is likely to come down to the top two for India also, despite the potential return of Kuldeep Yadav, with Ravi Ashwin leading the market at
Axar and Rohit To Do It Again
However, Axar Patel looks worthy of consideration at
2/1 having taken to Test cricket like a duck to water, out-performing Ashwin in three of the four innings in which he has bowled, which includes an 11-wicket haul at this venue last time out.
As far as the hosts’ batting is concerned, Virat Kohli leads the market for top first-innings runscorer at
9/4, perhaps with the thought he is due a big score.
However, he has hardly been consistent and, at the prices, it is worth taking him on with Rohit Sharma.
Rohit has top-scored for India in three of the last four innings, scoring a sublime 161 in the first innings of the second Test, before cracking 66 in the first effort of the third – both on pitches that have been criticised for being unfit to play the five-day game on. Given his form,
7/2 looks too big to ignore.
*All odds correct at time of writing