Now that captain Virat Kohli and his deputy Ajinkya Rahane both have indicated how the pitch will most likely assist turn once again, the conditions at play here can only mean one thing: gear up for another rank turner. So, how many days will this fourth Test last?
Certainly longer than the last one if the batsmen, who were clearly caught on the wrong foot playing the turning ball – or even the ones that didn’t turn – make a better effort than what they did here the last time.
Kohli, Rahane and even Rohit Sharma have said that it wasn’t the pitch that led to the day-night Test in Ahmedabad concluding within two days. It was poor batting, on part of both teams, that saw the match conclude the way it did.
Batsmen from both teams, England a bit more than India, lost their wickets – particularly in the second innings – to poor shot-making. The inability to shuffle their feet around, the cardinal sin of expecting the ball to do things rather than the bats coming in line with the ball, and the tendency to go for strokes than to just pat down deliveries and take their time at the crease were among the factors.
This Test, however, will last longer for more reasons than one. For starters, expect batters to be more comfortable facing the red ball than the glossy pink. Once bitten, twice shy, they’ll look to not repeat the mistakes of the previous game – which will mean trying to rid themselves of the white-ball demons and staying at the wicket longer.
Also expect the groundsmen to come up with a reasonably better strip than the last one, that can potentially establish the ‘rough’ far more clearly than the two-faced barren patch we saw the last time.
Should these elements fall into place, the Test is likely to go on for at least four days, if not five. And in that will lie India’s chances to record a win and grab their spot in the World Test Championship final.
Kohli, however, is not thinking that far ahead yet. To win a Test and move on to the next one seems to be his only priority as Team India captain. Going into this game, he’ll probably not make any change to the playing eleven either, except bringing in a replacement for Jasprit Bumrah in Umesh Yadav.
The onus, in fact, will be on England to try and include two frontline spinners this time around. While Joe Root‘s five-for will give the captain a lot more confidence to keep rolling his arm over, an extra spinner is what England will be busy contemplating.
Axar Patel’s arm ball will again be India’s biggest strength. Riding on a 10-wicket haul, his ability to control the turn and bowl a straight length could once again be decisive.
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