The State of Play
The five-match series could not be more delicately poised. England seized the early initiative in Hyderabad before India hit back in Visakhapatnam and the teams head to Rajkot locked at 1-1.
The feeling persists, however, that England will never have a better chance to achieve one of the hardest feats in cricket – a Test series victory in India. The home side are riddled with injuries whereas the tourists look relatively settled.
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Despite their selection problems, India showed their strength in depth by winning the second Test and they will again have to dip into their reserves to field a competitive line-up.
Rajkot is regarded as one of the more batter-friendly venues in India and a green surface could mean a re-think in terms of selection.
One man who is certain to play is England captain Ben Stokes, who will make his 100th Test appearance this week.
India’s injury worries deepened this week with KL Rahul ruled out of this Test due to a quadriceps injury. And with Virat Kohli out of the series as he attends to a personal matter, and Shreyas Iyer omitted due to poor form, India’s batting line-up will have an unfamiliar look.
Sarfaraz Khan is likely to make his Test debut while Dhruv Jurel is pushing KS Bharat for the wicketkeeping spot.
India’s bowling line-up will depend on the availability of spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who missed the second Test having suffered a hamstring injury in Hyderabad. Mohammed Siraj will return at the expense of Mukesh Kumar
England have selected a second seamer given the green surface with Mark Wood stepping up to partner James Anderson.
Shoaib Bashir has made way despite performing well on debut in the last test. Jack Leach has been ruled out for the rest of the series.
India: Jaiswal, Sharma (c), Gill, Khan, Patidar, Jadeja, Jurel (wk), Ashwin, Yadav, Bumrah, Siraj
England (confirmed): Crawley, Duckett, Pope, Root, Bairstow, Stokes (c), Foakes (wk), Ahmed, Hartley, Wood, Anderson
— BCCI (@BCCI) February 12, 2024
What they said
India coach Rahul Dravid on the pitch in Rajkot
“Curators make the pitches. We don’t ask for rank turners. Obviously tracks in India will spin, how much they’ll spin, how less they’ll spin, I’m not an expert, you know. Sometimes I get told they’ll turn on the third day, they turn on the first day. Sometimes I get told they turn on the second day and they don’t turn till day four. So, you know, I am sometimes as clueless as anybody else. We look at the wicket and we try to do the best we can with what we get and we’ll go to Rajkot, we’ll see what we get and play with whatever we get in front of us.”
England vice-captain Ollie Pope on Ben Stokes’ 100th Test appearance
“What a legend of the game. There are so many great memories from his career. It’s a credit to him. What he has put his body through – he gives 110 per cent to every Test he plays, plays every one like it is his last. You never know what you are going to get. He can do ridiculous things in the field, with the bat and with the ball. Long may that continue over the next few years.”
Getting ready in Rajkot 🏏 💪 🔴
🏟 Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium 📌
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) February 13, 2024
When and how to watch
The third Test takes place in Rajkot, starting at 4am (UK time) on Thursday morning. You can watch it in the UK on TNT Sports or Discovery+ with the programme starting at 3.45am.
India’s strength lies in their bowling and the battle between the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin and England’s batting line-up could well be key.
That said, England must fancy their chances of rolling over India’s batters and taking a 2-1 lead with just two games to play.
We’re taking England to win.