Root and Bairstow can stop England from rolling over
India odds-on to extend series advantage
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India are no bigger than 8-13 to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the five-Test series with England by winning the third Test that begins in Mohali tomorrow.
They have won four of the last five Tests at the Punjab-CA Stadium, including last year’s clash with South Africa, when the Proteas were spun out for 184 and 108. Virat Kohli’s charges also thumped the Three Lions, who have selection-issues, by 246 runs in Visakhapatnam last week.
Jos Buttler is set to come into England’s middle-order for the toiling Ben Duckett, Chris Woakes should replace a hobbling Stuart Broad and left-arm spinner Zafar Ansari, having beaten the illness that affected him in Visag, is struggling with a back strain.
South Africa bowled India out for 201 and 200 last November, while in 2010, India sneaked home by one wicket against Australia after the Baggy Greens had claimed a first-innings lead.
England captain Alastair Cook and attack-leader James Anderson will pass on knowledge of what worked in defiance eight years ago. Yet that match was affected by bad weather and the forecast is for the five hazy, sunny days. Result value-seekers may prefer 7-2 England compared to the draw at 9-2.
The obvious stumbling blocks to England hopes are kingpin bat Kohli and the world’s number one spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Kohli took the man-of-the-match honours in Visag, with a majestic 167 and then 81 and Ashwin bagged a match haul of 8-119.
And it would be no surprise to see them shine again. Kohli trod on his stumps in Rajkot when set on 40 and then saw them to safety with 49 not out. Ashwin found his rhythm and variations after an oddly subdued first Test.
But this is factored into prices and the bet involving an Indian that appeals the most is the 7-4 about opener Murali Vijay hitting a first-innings fifty. Vijay was dismissed cheaply both times in Visag but whacked 126 in the first-innings in Rajkot and his Test scores in Mohali have been 153, 26, 75 and 47. He also made 146, 52 and 95 in three of his first four Tests knocks in England in 2014.
On the England-front, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow are the men to concentrate on and they can also make first-innings half centuries at 11-8 and 2-1.
Root’s first-innings scores in Bangladesh and India this winter have been 40, 56, 124 and 53. Five of Bairstow’s seven innings have been 52, 47, 46 and 31 not out and he could benefit from the return to the lower-order of in-nick all-rounder Woakes.
M Vijay to score a first-innings fifty
2pts 7-4 Paddy Power
J Root to score a first-innings fifty
2pts 11-8 Hills, Lads
J Bairstow to score a first-innings fifty
1pt 2-1 Hills, Power
Spin starting to have an effect
Punters’ guide to Mohali
The PCA Stadium in Mohali has featured sporadically on India’s Test match rota with just 12 games played there since it’s debut in 1994.
Historically Mohali hasn’t been akin to the dustbowls of the south with the lush outfield ensuring the ball holds it shine for longer offering batsmen full value for their shots and greater opportunity for seamers.
However, that has changed in recent years, as shown by India’s 108-run win over South Africa last year when 35 of the 40 wickets to fall were taken by spinners. All but one of the Proteas’ wickets were claimed by an Indian slow bowler.
England have visited on three occasions, suffering crushing defeats in 2001 and 2006 but gaining a draw on their last trip in 2008 when Kevin Pietersen hit 144.