As the cricket action returns to the Motera Stadium after almost 7 years, fans are eagerly awaiting the start of the 3rd test between India and England. In what is only the second time that a pink ball day-night test is being held in India, both the teams would be looking to get a win to edge ahead in a series which is leveled at 1-1.
However, this is the first time that a pink ball test is being held in February and it remains to be seen how the behavior of the SG pink ball affects the outcome of the match. However, irrespective of the conditions, there are certain key battles amongst players that will determine who will win this third test in the series being held at the biggest cricket stadium in the world.
Rohit Sharma vs James Anderson
Despite misfiring in the first test, veteran Indian opener Rohit Sharma came back strongly in the second test scoring a massive 161 runs in the first innings. This helped India to a big first innings score as they won the test match with ease. Thus, it will be expected that Rohit Sharma continues his form. The opener is also on the verge of getting to the personal milestone of 2500 test runs with 25 runs needed to achieve that.
However, the biggest thorn in his side to scoring runs would be the return of seam pacer James ‘Jimmy’ Anderson. This legend of the game showed his true class in wiping out the Indian middle order with his swing mastery in the first test. Rested for the second test as part of ECB’S rotational policy, Jimmy Anderson is set to return to the team for the third test. Due to the day-night condition, the pink bowl is expected to swing and seam in the twilight hours. What will also concern the Indian management is that Jimmy Anderson has already stated that the pink ball was swinging more than the red ball. Hence, even though Sharma has got out to spin on three occasions in this series, his battle with Anderson would be key in India getting off to a good start.
Cheteshwar Pujara vs Jofra Archer
Cheteshwar Pujara, or Mr. Resilient as he is better known among the cricketing fraternity, has been in fine form right from the Australian tour. He has scored runs in this series too and has been rewarded by a IPL contract this season. His tenacity and focus to stay on the pitch has worn down bowlers in this tour and he has only gotten out either in a freak manner or when the spinners have bowled really well. Yet, the fact that he faces a lot of balls and steadies the Indian middle order is undisputed.
Thus, it remains key for the England side to get this old-school batsman out early on his innings and they would be looking at pacer Jofra Archer to do it. The young pacer has really taken to test cricket with 41 wickets in 12 matches. Of those 41 wickets, 3 came in the first test. Like Anderson, he was tested in the second test and will be looking to use his skills to get Pujara, who is a good player of swing, out early on in the innings.
Joe Root vs Axar Patel
Axar Patel has been a known name in the Indian domestic circuit for the last few years, yet his test debut has left everyone impressed. After missing out on the first test with a last-minute injury, the spinner took seven wickets in the second test – two in the first innings and five in the second innings. Out of those seven wickets in the two innings, his most important wickets were that of England captain Joe Root in both the innings. Even though Joe Root is proficient against spin, as he has already shown when he scored the double century in the first test in Chennai, Axar Patel’s carefully laid out bowling plan got him out in both innings. Thus, it remains to be seen how the England skipper replies to the bowler who appears to have his number in the third test of the series.
Plenty of individual battles are going to take place in this third test. With the pink ball day-night format in the newly revamped Motera Stadium, it is important for individual cricketers of both sides to win their individual battles in order to propel their team to a win and a lead in the series that is now tied at 1-1.