Brett’s watch list: Possible Man of the Match contenders for fourth India-England Test
There’s absolutely no margin for error for England at this moment. While they are already out of the World Test Championship, they will look to salvage something positive from the fourth and final Test match of their tour of India.
Joe Root’s men were thrashed in the third Test at the newly reconstructed Motera Stadium and were rightly criticised for their team selection, meaning that we could well and truly witness some major changes in the final Test. I reckon the final Test will be nothing like the third, as both the teams will do their homework this time. The unexpected nature of Motera’s pitch did take everyone by surprise, but if what I’m reading of late about the pitch is true, we are in for a delight.
That said, here I give you my four picks who I believe can deliver a Man of the Match performance in the final Test.
India’s Test vice-captain, Ajinkya Rahane is due a big innings. Since scoring that century against Australia in Melbourne, Rahane has scored just one half-century across nine Test innings, with scores of 22, 4, 37, 24, 1, 0, 67, 10 and 7. His record against England isn’t particularly good, especially at home, where he has scored just 148 runs in six Tests at a lowly average of 14.80. Point being, I’m expecting Rahane to put on a commanding show against the Englishmen in the final Test. While the odds aren’t in his favour, considering his frailties against spin of late, a different nature of Motera’s pitch this time may work in his favour.
Two Tests, 18 wickets and a bowling average of 9.44 definitely speaks volume about the kind of start Axar Patel has got. The left-arm spinner skimmed through England’s batting unit in both Test matches as if he was playing some local tournament. Root’s team simply had no answers to his round-arm bowling action and I expect him to lay down a similar threat in the final match of the Test series. Patel has bagged three consecutive five-fers against England, and he has proved to be the perfect replacement for the injured Ravindra Jadeja. Axar alongside Ravichandran Ashwin has been a sheer treat to watch. The duo has been simply unplayable in both the games they have played together.
Jack Leach might not have been as successful as Patel and Ashwin, but he has arguably been England’s best bowler in the ongoing Test series. The left-arm spinner has picked 16 wickets at an average of 26.75 in the three matches and has been a total menace for the Indian top-order. Leach has dismissed Rohit Sharma four times, Cheteshwar Pujara three times and has gotten better of Virat Kohli too. Despite not playing in the subcontinent as frequently, the off-spinner has adapted to the conditions pretty quickly and has also been a consistent performer for the Three Lions.
Following his match-winning double century in the first Test, England captain, Joe Root went on a rather rare blip with the bat, but compensated for the drop in form with a brilliant five-fer in the recently concluded Test at Motera. England will be desperate for a win and with the others around him not contributing as much, the onus will certainly come on Root to provide England another solid foundation for the team’s middle-order to capitalise. Now, his decisions in the last Test attracted heavy criticism, but Root is rightly expected to put on a much-improved performance. I expect him to score big in the fourth Test.
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