India v England: Four talking points ahead of third Test in Kolkata
India v England: Harry Kemble looks at four key talking points ahead of the third Test in Kolkata on Wednesday
Finn in for Broad?
After turning out for England Performance Programme against DY Patil Academy last week, Steven Finn looks likely to replace the out-of-form Stuart Broad for Wednesday’s third Test. Finn troubled India’s batsmen a year ago in a five-match one-day international series, with the pace and bounce gained from his 6ft 7ins frame collecting eight wickets in an otherwise uninspiring tour which England lost 5-0. And after the tourists’ spin duo Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar produced a fantastic performance in Mumbai – where they took 19 out of the 20 Indian wickets to fall – England will be delighted to have an extra string to their bow with Finn in their side. A bowling quartet of Jimmy Anderson, Finn, Swann and Panesar looks dangerous on any surface and India will not have faced many attacks of such quality in recent years on home soil.
Ian Bell returns to the England set up after flying home to see his newborn son Joseph William Bell. This week, the Warwickshire batsman has insisted that he is now in the “perfect frame of mind” and looks likely to replace Jonny Bairstow. In the first Test in Ahmedabad, England’s No5 batsmen looked ill-prepared to play in match of such magnitude, being dismissed for 0 and 20. However, he will now be hoping to improve his disappointing average of 18.36 in six Tests in India to date with a score. England will certainly need another of the top six to perform apart from Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen, who shone in the second Test, if they are to win for the first time since 1977 in Kolkata.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has once again issued his plea for a wicket that takes spin from the very first ball of the match. The plan backfired spectacularly in the last Test when Swann and Panesar bowled Cook’s team to a famous victory. Three surfaces have been prepared on the famous Eden Gardens square, with the most likely to be picked one which was last used just two weeks ago in a first-class match. This is scenario that is unheard of in other cricketing nations but is building to be an intriguing sub-plot as the series develops. However, Kolkata’s groundsman for the third Test, who initially described Dhoni’s request as “immoral”, says the wicket would reward good cricket for both sides.
Dhoni’s reluctance to backtrack with his demands for a wicket that immediately spins could potentially cause serious issues for his team. There was much pre-series hype surrounding India’s spinners Ravi Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, and their abilities on India’s dusty pitches. But halfway through the series and pundits are speculating whether Panesar’s and Swann’s superior experience will ensure that it will be England’s spin twins – not India’s – that bowl their side to victory in the final two Tests of the series. Ashwin, Ojha and Harbhajan Singh looked lacklustre in the second Test often bowling too slow and short therefore failing to utilise the favourable conditions. With the series level at 1-1, it will be interesting to see which set of twirlers can get to grips with Kolkata first.