India vs Australia: Fourth Test Preview

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With the series delicately poised at 1-1, Australia head into the final Test at Dharamsala attempting to do what no team has done since England in 2012/13 – win a Test series in India.

Can Steve Smith and his gutsy charges pull off the unlikeliest of victories or will it be business as usual for India on what will be a ‘result’ pitch? Let’s take a look:

India vs Australia | Saturday 25 March – Wednesday 29 March | Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, Dharamsala

To Win Match
India 8/10 | Draw 28/10 | Australia 3/1

India
The biggest news coming out of the Indian camp is that skipper Virat Kohli may not feature in the beautiful mountain setting of Dharamsala. Kohli would be a massive miss for the hosts even if he has lost a bit of the form. He still remains an ever-present in the top five of the Test batting rankings, however.

Even when he’s going through an uncharacteristically lean spell, his presence in the field is immense. He stalks the infield with a quiet ferocity that I haven’t seen in any other Test captain on the current circuit. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not India lose a bit of their edge in the field if he is absent.

The one player who I feel will be key to winning this match for India – with the exception of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin – will be Cheteshwar Pujara. So good has the Gujarat native been, that the BCCI have elevated his central contract to ‘Grade A’ status, putting him in the same sort of earning bracket as Kohli, MS Dhoni, Ashwin and Jadeja.

He is one of the most defensively sound batsmen on the planet and plays Indian conditions better than most. Averaging a shade under 70 in the series, his 202 in the last Test ensured that Australia couldn’t win the match. How he fares against Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe will be central to India’s chances of claiming a win and the series.

There’s not really much we can say about the bowling attack. Ashwin and Jadeja will get through a heap of overs in an attempt to run through the Australian batting line-up. In the three matches that have been played in this series so far, the two have bowled 368.4 of the 1030.1 total overs – if India win, expect one of these two guys to pick up the man of the match award.

Australia
Win or lose in the last Test, Darren Lehmann and the rest of the Australian set-up will consider this series a success. Nobody gave them a chance coming into the series, so the fact that they’re still in it heading into Dharamsala is massive.

I have to say that I’ve been most impressed with the youngsters in the side. Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb have been world class on this tour providing support to senior batsmen as well as contributing 172 and 223 runs respectively with averages of 34.40 and 37.16 – an excellent return for two batsmen who have never toured the Sub-Continent.

While the two juniors have impressed, Steve Smith has stolen the show in this series. An average of 74.20 on this tour with two centuries and a 371-run haul so far in this series underline exactly why he occupies the top spot in the Test batting rankings. He’ll be hoping for one more big score as Australia look to complete mission impossible.

All in all, I think the Aussies look in pretty good shape. They’ve got a nice balance in the side with Glenn Maxwell in the mix. He showed exactly what he can do with the Baggy Green on his head, bagging his maiden Test century. His ability to turn the arm over, giving Smith an extra offbreak option can’t be discounted either.



Verdict: India 8/10
You simply have to back India here at 8/10 for a couple of reasons. The first being that the Curators would have no doubt received very strict instructions to prepare a ‘result’ wicket. This means only one thing in India – it’s turning square from ball one. The other is the price, I know Australia have been good, but 8/10 seems too good to be true, especially which no rain predicted for the duration of the Test.

Value Bet: A hundred to be scored in the match: No 5/1
With the wicket expected to take plenty of turn, batting will be difficult at best from the very first morning. With this in mind, getting on at 5/1 for no 100 to be scored in the match makes sense. Small stake on at 5/1.

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