Having lost the opening game of this four test series, Alastair Cook’s England now have an unassailable lead over India as they head for the final match in Nagpur (4am GMT, Thursday).
The transformation since the first contest in Ahmedabad has been incredible. Cook’s men will be confident of clinching the series win.
By all accounts, the Nagpur pitch is going to be a ‘result wicket’ and, with India needing the win, that would level the series. So you can probably disregard the prospect of a flat track that would lead to a dour draw. The home selectors have made some changes ahead of the match but can MS Dhoni’s men lift themselves after two poor performances at Mumbai and Kolkata?
Three names are missing from the India side that lost the third match last week and the biggest surprise is the axing of seamer Zaheer Khan. Zaheer wasn’t in the best of form in Kolkata but still looked potent in comparison to his opening partner Ishant Sharma yet he has lost out to uncapped paceman Parvinder Arwana.
It was expected that Harbhajan Singh would be replaced by leg spinner Piyush Chawla but the one new face who could really change India’s fortunes is Ravindra Jadeja. The man from Saurashtra is largely known outside of India as a one day specialist but his batting stats have been remarkable this year.
Jadeja has recently become the first Indian to score three triple centuries in his first class career and they’ve all come in 2012. It’s fair to say that the 24-year-old is in the form of his life and should bring some stability to that brittle middle order.
England have no selection issues and after Stuart Broad suffered a recurrence of his worrying heel injury, it is certain that the selectors will field the same bowling attack that won in Kolkata. There may be some questions in the batting department however where Ian Bell and Samit Patel have looked less than convincing at numbers five and six.
Jonny Bairstow and Eoin Morgan are standing by but it would be a surprise if Cook doesn’t take the same, settled side to Nagpur.
That means that the key men for England are Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen once again. It took a freak run out to dismiss Cook on 190 last week and he looks unstoppable. If India can get the skipper’s wicket early then it could put the underperforming middle order under pressure.
As for India’s batsmen, they still look vulnerable as a unit against the spin of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann. The addition of Steven Finn’s pace and the return to form of Jimmy Anderson makes this the strongest English bowling attack for some time.
When India toured England in 2011 many expected MS Dhoni’s men to lift themselves after each defeat but they looked a tired and ageing unit as they slipped to a 4-0 series whitewash. The hosts should never be written off but there are clear comparisons with that 2011 tour and the tourists are perfectly placed to take advantage.
This Preview’s Betting Tip: Bet on England to win the cricket 4th Test against India at 9/4 with Bet365.