England were routed for their lowest aggregate in a Test match in India in the Day and Night Pink Ball Test at the splendid Narendra Modi Stadium at Motera in Ahmedabad. A lot has been said about the demons in the pitch and India mis-using home advantage but the fact of the matter was that England had the call of the coin and could not capitalize and batted poorly in both innings. India made better use of challenging conditions and were victorious taking a 2-1 lead in the four-match series.
No one is quite yet sure what kind of pitch awaits the two teams for the last Test of the series. While some reports suggest it would assist spinners and would be similar to the wickets for the second Chennai Test and the third Test at Motera, there are other reports which indicate that the pitch might not be as challenging as the one in the previous Test - India just needs a draw to qualify for the final of the World Test Championship at Lord’s in June and would not want to risk a rank turner should the move backfire against their own batsmen.
The return of the red cherry would also mean some relief for the batsmen. The Pink Ball does a lot more when new with the extra shine - it comes on faster after pitching and also swings more then the red one. But unless England can come up with a new counter-attacking strategy against the Indian spinners, the change in colour of the ball, from pink to red, may not necessarily change their luck and fortunes.
England need to do something out of the ordinary if they do not want to be hammered again in Ahmedabad. Pink or Red will not make a difference if they continue to be rigid and employ the same tactics to counter the Indian spin attack. The visitors need to stop their reliance on the sweep shot and instead try and use their feet, come to the pitch of the ball and be positive against the likes of R Ashwin and Co. Otherwise they are essentially sitting as lame ducks waiting to be eaten by the Indian bowlers.
Joe Root will have to produce the big scores again in Ahmedabad. There is no other option for England as he is, by far, their best batsman against spin. He is also the highest scorer of the series with 333 runs at an average of 55.5. Zak Crawley was very impressive in the first innings at Motera and will continue to play in the same vein - similar to what Rohit Sharma is doing for India.
England need Dom Sibley to perform at the top of the order. He was mighty impressive with his 87 in the first innings of the series opener in Chennai but has since then gone off the boil completely registering scores of 16, 16, 3, 0 and 7. Sibley has all the ingredients to make a good solid Test opener and the ability to bat for long periods of play - the visitors need him to put his hands up and deliver in Ahmedabad.
Jonny Bairstow registered a pair and looked all at sea in the 11 deliveries he paced at Motera. Dan Lawrence might make a comeback in the XI to replace the wicket-keeper batsman. England will also hope for a big performance from Ben Stokes who barring the 82 in Chennai in the first Test has not done much with the bat or the ball in the series.
The visitors missed a trick in the third Test by playing the extra seamer on a spinner’s paradise - a move which backfired big-time. Dom Bess will, in all probability, replace Stuart Broad in the XI.
India cannot afford to be complacent. The batting remains a minor concern and with the exception of Rohit Sharma, was found out in the first innings at Motera. Shubman Gill needs to spend some more time at the crease. He scored just 11 in the first innings in Ahmedabad and had a rare failure in the second Test in Chennai where he registered a duck in the first innings and only 14 in the second.
Ajinkya Rahane’s inconsistency from number 5 is another worry for the home team. Leaving aside his magnificent hundred at MCG and a fine 67 in Chennai, Rahane has an aggregate of 265 runs at a batting average of just 18.93 in the remaining 15 innings since 2020. His inconsistency is putting enormous pressure on the top 4 and also on the lower-order.
The bowling will again be led by Ashwin and Axar Patel who with 24 and 18 are the two leading wicket-takers of the series. Umesh Yadav is all set to replace Jasprit Bumrah who is on personal leave. Umesh is one of the leading fast bowlers in the world since 2018 during which he has taken 49 wickets in 12 Tests at an average of 19.71. His strike rate of 35.1 is the best in the world amongst all fast bowlers in this time-frame.
Kuldeep Yadav will also, in all likelihood, come in for Washington Sundar. The latter, while being impressive with the bat has not contributed enough with the ball to warrant a place in the Test XI as a bowling all-rounder.
WHAT: India vs England, 4th Test
WHEN: March 4-8, 9:30 AM IST
WHERE: Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera, Ahmedabad
TELECAST: Star Sports NetworkLIVE
STREAMING: Disney + Hotstar
India Team News
India are likely to make two changes to the XI that played the Pink Ball Test in Ahmedabad. Umesh Yadav will replace Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav might come in for Washington Sundar.
Predicted XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav
England Team News
Dan Lawrence is likely to make a comeback in the XI at the cost of Jonny Bairstow. Dom Bess will be a certainty and will replace Stuart Broad in all likelihood.
Predicted XI: Zak Crawley, Dom Sibley, Dan Lawrence, Joe Root (capt), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Ben Foakes (wk), Jofra Archer, Dom Bess, Jack Leach, James Anderson
Head to Head:
Last five Tests: England 3, India 2
India: What makes a good surface? Who defines this? Seam on the first day and then bat well and then spin on the last two days? Come on! - R Ashwin on the Motera Pitch for the Pink Ball Day and Night Test
England: I am sure that off the back of this, things will get looked at by the ICC. It’s a real shame, it’s a fantastic stadium, there are 60,000 people come to watch a brilliant iconic Test match and I feel for them. They have come to watch Virat Kohli face Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad or Jack Leach, and watch Ashwin against our top batters like Ben Stokes. I almost feel like they have been robbed, instead they have had to watch me get wickets, which shouldn’t be the case - Joe Root adding fire to the Motera Pitch debate