After India thrashed England by nine wickets in the first test in Ahmedabad, all the talk was about a 4-0 whitewash. But the tourists were having none of it and have answered with two equally convincing wins of their own.
The recall of Monty Panesar has been attributed as the prime reason for England’s recovery, but each and every Three Lions player has contributed, particularly during last week's win in Kolkata. The bowlers shared the wickets, while the batsmen each recorded some sort of score whether it was skipper Alastair Cook with his brilliant 190 or Ian Bell’s crucial 28 to see England home after their wobble at 8-3 on the final morning.
India have a strong home Test record having not lost a series there since Australia beat them back in 2004 – they have won 10 of the last 14 home series since. With this proud record now under serious threat, the pressure is mounting on captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni with a growing majority of fans calling for his head. Dhoni’s unorthodox captaincy style has always been questioned so anything less than a series-levelling win here will likely cost the 31-year-old his post.
England won’t be making any changes to their side after convincing wins in Mumbai and Kolkata. The only slight issue for England at the present time is the role of Samit Patel in the side with the Nottinghamshire player stuck in all-rounder limbo. The 28-year-old has contributed 69 runs in four innings but has bowled only a handful of overs since Monty Panesar was recalled to the side so his days in an England Test shirt could be numbered.
India must be reeling - worse than Manny Pacquiao was at the weekend after heavy back-to-back losses - so changes are inevitable. Veterans Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh are out with Piyush Chawla, Parvinder Awana and Ravindra Jadeja coming into the squad for this deciding Test. Retaining a 15-man squad demonstrates the indecision of the Indian selectors as they keep their options open heading to Nagpur.
It would be naïve to think that the Nagpur groundsman hasn’t been ordered to produce a ‘result pitch’ with India needing to win this final Test to level the series. Reports from the ground suggest we can expect a slightly different pitch from the first three with this strip expected to be much less spin-friendly.
After achieving three wins from three in my Kolkata predictions I am going to once again ignore the draw and back an England victory (3.00). For India in the top batsman market I would point to Gautam Gambhir (5.50) – the Kolkata opener has quietly produced for his team in this series so expect him to want to finish the series with a big score after a run of solid starts. With England I would suggest taking advantage of our ‘Nuts KP Offer’ and back the in-form Alastair Cook to top score, safe in the knowledge that if Kevin Pietersen top scores your bet stake will be refunded.
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