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India eye WTC final berth on a ‘good’ pitch for batters

India need to win the final Test to qualify for the World Test Championship final


India’s batting megastars will be desperate to clear the cobwebs from their head in pursuit of a second successive World Test Championship final berth as they take on Australia in the series-deciding fourth Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad from Thursday.

After the spinners from both sides held fort on designer tracks that bordered on being under-prepared, the firm and even bounce on offer at Motera does promise some welcome respite for the batters.

Stand-in Australia skipper Steve Smith said on Wednesday the pitch for the fourth Test looks good for batsmen and different from the usual day-one turners in the previous matches in India.

Australia will look to level the series at 2-2 in the final Test starting on Thursday in Ahmedabad after they bounced back from two losses to win the third Test on a viciously turning pitch.

“It’s just playing what’s in front of us really, obviously the scores haven’t been big throughout this whole series. India scored 400 in that first Test match and Rohit got 100 and 400 proved to be way too many,” Smith told reporters.

“This wicket may be a little bit different. Perhaps it may not spin as much from the first ball or the first day but I do think it will spin as the game goes on. So yeah, there might be opportunities for bigger totals on this wicket.”

Smith was unsure of which pitch the crunch final Test would be played after the curators kept two tracks covered at the world’s biggest cricket stadium.

Hot weather

But doubts for the visitors cleared as the day progressed on a hot afternoon in Ahmedabad.

“Yeah rocked up today and there was only one covered so yeah looks like they have chosen,” said Smith.

“Looks like probably of the four wickets we’ve seen so far, potentially the flattest on day one. Having said that, it’s I think 38 degrees out there at the moment, it’s pretty hot. Looks like it’ll dry out as the day goes on.”

The 33-year-old Smith, standing in as captain in place of Pat Cummins, had earlier said he could not recall ever having been in this situation so close to the start of a Test.

India have long been accused of preparing pitches to favour their spinners. The International Cricket Council ruled that the surface in the third Test in Indore — won by Australia — was “poor”.

The tourists switched to a spin-heavy team selection from the second Test in New Delhi and handed India a nine-wicket loss in Indore in just over two days.

Smith strongly hinted that Australia would play the spin trio of Nathan Lyon, Matthew Kuhnemann and Todd Murphy again, praising the “variation” that each has been able to produce.

Lyon, an off-spinner, took eight wickets to dismiss India for 163 in their second innings on a pitch that turned from day one in the third Test.

Newcomer Murphy has been economical and got Virat Kohli out three times.

“(We have) had faith in what we’re trying to do and it’s good that we are able to show that we can play with three spinners and win,” Smith said.

“They are all different and all have good knowledge of the game (and a) good understanding of what they are trying to do. It’s been great to be able to play spinners and show that we can do it effectively.”

Victory in the third Test was only Australia’s second in India since 2004 and Smith believes another to level the series would be an ideal finish.

“For any touring team to come here and win two Test matches will be a huge achievement,” said Smith.

“Unfortunately we weren’t able to do it earlier in the series to give ourselves a chance to win.”

Team combination

For India, one straight change will be Mohammed Shami coming in and he will have the seasoned Umesh Yadav for company.

Mohammed Siraj will be rested as he is expected to play a key role in India’s ODI campaign starting March 17 in Mumbai.

While India’s shoddy batting display raised a question if an extra batter would serve as a cushion for the top-order, but if the track is better for the willow-wielders, five bowlers will be needed to take 20 wickets.

Axar Patel, the batter has been a revelation during the series but his left-arm spin hasn’t been utilized as it should have been. Maybe Motera, where he has played the bulk of his first class cricket and first got Test stardom, will turn the tables once again.

Teams (from):

Australia: Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Matt Kuhnemann, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (captain), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson.

India: Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat, Ishan Kishan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Suryakumar Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat.

Match starts at 8 am UAE Time.

News source: khaleejtimes

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