India v Australia Third Test

Thursday March 16 2017, 3:00pm AEDT

With the series locked at 1-1, India and Australia head to Ranchi where they will do battle in the third test, beginning on Thursday.


India

India squared the series in Bangalore with a hard-fought 75-run win. Winning the toss and batting first, they owed much to the patience and grit of opener Lokesh Rahul who compiled a crucial 90 in a first innings total of just 189. When Australia made their way to 2/134 in reply, the hosts were well behind in the game, however a brilliant spell from Ravindra Jadeja, who captured 6/63 off 21.4 overs, restricted the visitors’ lead to only 87.

Rahul backed up his effort in the first innings with another superb knock of 51 in the second dig on an increasingly wearing pitch, however it was a partnership of 118 between Cheteshwar Pujara (92) and Ajinkya Rahane (52) which proved particularly pivotal as the Indians set Australia a tricky fourth innings chase of 188. This time it was Jadeja’s fellow spinner Ravi Ashwin who imposed himself for the first time in the series, picking up 6/41 as the Aussies slumped to 112 all out, allowing India to square the series.

After twin failures at the top of the order Abhinav Mukund is expected to make way for the returning Murali Vijay who missed the second test after succumbing to a shoulder injury. Seam-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya has also been omitted from the squad although there are no other changes to the starting XI expected with Karun Nair set to retain his place in the middle-order alongside captain Virat Kohli who has been surprisingly disappointing in the opening two tests, averaging just 10.


Australia

While Australia may see the second test as an opportunity lost, they at least proved that their famous victory in Pune was not a one-off and that they are capable of competing in these conditions against the all-conquering Indians. One player who has had to overcome recurring doubts is off-spinner Nathan Lyon who put aside a poor history in the sub-continent to pick up an incredible 8/50 in the first innings, although was less effective in the second where he finished with 0/82.

With the bat it was a pair of left-handers who grafted the Aussies towards their first innings lead with young opener Matthew Renshaw continuing his impressive tour with 60, while overseas specialist Shaun Marsh struck a composed 66. Meanwhile another southpaw Matthew Wade showed glimpses of his fighting best with a determined 40.

In India’s second innings it was metronomic paceman Josh Hazlewood who made the most of a deteriorating pitch, claiming 6/67 as spinners Lyon and Steve O’Keefe failed to find the necessary penetration. The first signs of Australia’s susceptibility to a crumbling pitch occurred in the fourth innings where no batsman could reach 30 as they lost 6/11 to record their first-ever loss at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Already under pressure owing to his erratic form, all-rounder Mitchell Marsh has been ruled out of the rest of the tour with a shoulder injury with Victorian Marcus Stoinis drafted into the squad, although Glenn Maxwell is favoured to come into the starting XI. That news has been compounded by the series-ending foot injury to spearhead Mitchell Starc, who has been replaced by talented quick Pat Cummins.


JSCA International Stadium Complex

This is the first ever test match at Ranchi’s JSCA International Stadium Complex, although ODI matches at the ground have generally produced good wickets for batting. While both captains will no doubt be keen to win the toss and bat, they should be aware that this season’s Ranji Trophy matches played at this ground produced first innings totals of just 162 and 118.


Key Stats

  • India have won six of their past seven tests at home.
  • India have won their last 13 tests when batting first.
  • India have drawn only two of their past 21 tests at home.
  • Australia have drawn only two of their past 26 tests.
  • Furthermore, Australia’s last 11 tests in Asia have produced a result.
  • In their last seven tests when bowling first, Australia have conceded over 300 only twice.

The Verdict

India have retained clear favouritism for the third test with Starc’s injury pushing an Australian victory out to the least likely result with the draw sandwiched in between.

While it was not without its hiccups, India finally showcased their class in the back-end of the second test to come over the top of Australia in a morale-boosting victory. Perhaps most crucially it was their second innings effort with the bat that turned the game around, as their out-of-sorts middle-order finally showed some stoicism and application on a surface that only became more difficult for batting.

There is still plenty of upside for the hosts with captain Kohli incredibly conspicuous to this point, while their other noted match-winner Ashwin appears to be approaching his best form after starting the series with some underwhelming returns. However at such a short price it’s difficult to argue that India are any value here, having failed to display the sort of dominance that was expected of them this series.

A big part of the reason that India haven’t run away with the series has been the skill showed by the Australians, particularly with bat in hand as the likes of Renshaw and captain Steve Smith have handled the foreign wickets and continual threat posed by Ashwin and Jadeja admirably. With the ball their spinners have exceeded all expectations to turn in successive game-changing performances, while fast-bowlers Hazlewood and Starc have enhanced their own reputations by troubling the prolific Indian batting unit on their own soil.

While Starc’s injury is a significant blow, the chief concern for the visitors was the way that their spinners, and then batsmen, faded away in the second-half of the match in Bangalore and with India still having not reached their potential I can’t quite be backing the Aussies at this stage.

The starting price for the draw has drifted marginally from the opening two tests, however one could argue it should have gone even further north following three-day and four-day finishes to start the series. It has been a series where bat has never been able to completely dominate ball, and it has taken some truly outstanding individual efforts – such as Smith in Pune and Rahul in Bangalore – to put runs on the board. The weather does not appear to be a significant factor in Ranchi, and while the condition of the pitch is unknown, one could reasonably expect a similar surface to what was seen in the opening two tests.

The toss will again be crucial, especially given India’s near-impregnable record when batting first, although given the way Australia’s bowling attack has operated we don’t really want to oppose them, even without Starc who notably has taken less wickets than the other three frontline bowlers.

In fact it seems prudent not to oppose either bowling attack which leads us down the path of laying the draw. This strategy is underpinned by recent data with India drawing only two of their past 21 tests at home, while Australia have drawn only two of their last 26 overall.

Although they have shown far greater application on this tour, those second innings demons illustrated why Australia have gone 11 straight tests in the sub-continent without a stalemate and we see no reason why that will change in Ranchi, which is why I will be taking on the draw in Ranchi.


Betting Strategy

 LAY – The draw at 4.70 or better for 3 units.


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