India will clash with England in the last match of the four-Test series at Motera in Ahmedabad from Thursday. With a 2-1 lead in the series, the home team just needs a draw to secure a place in the final of the World Test Championship at Lord’s in June this year. A lot was made of the Motera Pitch for the Pink Ball third Test which India won by 10 wickets. While a change in the colour of the ball may bring a bit of a relief to the batsmen, it will still be an intriguing contest between bat and ball. No team would give an inch given the relevance of the match which will only add more fire to the contest.
We look at three key match-ups which can potentially decide the outcome of the match.
1. Jack Leach vs Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma has been the best batsman in the series with two masterclass performances with the bat. His 161 in the second Test in Chennai was amongst the greatest hundreds at home by an Indian batsman. Rohit is scoring big runs and tough runs for India under pressure at a very high strike rate and was the difference between the batting of the two teams, both in Chennai and Ahmedabad.
But he has found his nemesis in Jack Leach in the series - the slow left-arm orthodox bowler who is England’s highest wicket-taker in the series, has seen the back of Rohit in 4 of the batsman’s 5 dismissals in the series. It would be interesting to see what tactics and strategy Rohit deploys against Leach? Will he look to play him out or use his feet and attack him? Or will he look to sweep him off a length?
2. James Anderson vs Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli scored two fine fifties in the two Chennai Tests when most others around him failed in the innings. Kohli has the ability to play aggressively and attack the bowling and also take out his A game in defence when the situation calls for. His battle with James Anderson could be fascinating. Anderson will get the old ball to reverse and can trouble Kohli with the one that jags in sharply from a length. He has also troubled Kohli with the outswinger outside the off stump but in more helpful conditions back in England.
Kohli may stand out of his crease to counter any swing/reverse swing from Anderson. He also has to make sure his front foot is outside the line of the stumps for the inswinger which may trap him leg before wicket.
3. Joe Root vs Axar Patel
This has been the battle of the series with the left-armer from India dominating the contest. Axar has gotten into the minds of the England captain who is getting foxed between the delivery that spins away and the one that comes on with the arm. Axar got Root leg before wicket in the second innings in Ahmedabad and had dismissed the England captain in both the innings of the second Test in Chennai getting the ball to turn away from the right-hander. Root fell to his favourite sweep shot in the first innings and received a peach of a delivery which took off from the surface in the second.
How will Root counter Axar? Using his feet could be a profitable but risky option with the ball turning away from the right-hander.