Ranchi: Ranchi will host the most important Test match of this series, a match which will decide which way the series will go.
India played superbly at Bengaluru to win the second Test and tie the series 1-1. It was the marvellous knock from Cheteshwar Pujara in the second innings which gave the bowlers a target to defend. The innings emphasised what I had always said about Pujara and his importance to this team.
He is a solid player in Test cricket, especially at the No. 3 position, who cannot always be judged by his strike rate — though his strike rate in the recent past has been exceptional. His technique, his solidity is a must for this team and the value of the knock in Bengaluru was worth its weight in gold.
The toss will once again be crucial in Ranchi. There will be turn on offer on that pitch, no matter what the curator says. The reason why I say the toss will be important, which was not the case against New Zealand or England, is because of the way the Aussie spinners have bowled.
Not many times in the recent past has an overseas spinner picked eight wickets on the first day of a Test match in India and both Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon will keep putting pressure on India if the pitch provides spin. There has been lot of talk about the pitches in Pune and Bengaluru, but I believe Ranchi will be a lot better in terms of the bounce but will ultimately spin.
The Indian team’s body language on the field was exceptional and hopefully, they will hold on to it for the rest of the series. Both the boards should be credited for the way they have handled the situation arising out of the second Test match. The competitive spirit should be kept alive because that’s what an India-Australia Test series is all about.
The Indian side will go into this match unchanged. Murali Vijay will be back at his opening slot after having recovered from injury. The four-bowler option is what should be continued as the two spinners are good enough to pick 20 wickets.
Australia, however, will miss Mitchell Starc, not only for his bowling but also for the footmarks he created for Lyon. The injury to Mitch Marsh may not be that sort of a problem for them as his form in Test cricket has not been something to write home about and young Marcus Stoinis or Glenn Maxwell could be the option.