Australia aim for 4-0 whitewash
January 24-28, Adelaide Oval
Start time 1030 (0000 GMT)
Four weeks ago, the first Test started in Melbourne on Boxing Day amid great expectations of a closely-fought tour and India's best chance of pulling off a series win in Australia. Now after three Tests, none of which have lasted five days, the best India can hope for is a consolation victory in Adelaide. They will do so without their captain MS Dhoni, who was suspended after India's loss in Perth due to slow over rates, and under the guidance of the stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag. At least Adelaide Oval is a venue that will give the Indians hope: in their past two Tests there, they have managed a win and a draw.
As is so often the case in dead rubbers these days, there are plenty of sub-plots to keep things interesting. There is the question of whether leadership will bring out the best in Sehwag, who has had a disappointing tour with only one half-century. There is debate around the future of VVS Laxman, the most vulnerable of the seniors in India's middle order. And there's the ongoing hundredth hundred saga.
For Australia, Michael Hussey has announced his intentions to play on for the next Test tour, but the last Test of the home summer is traditionally a time for farewells, so for Australia there is the chance, albeit slim, that Ricky Ponting or Brad Haddin might call it quits after the game. There is the matter of whether Shaun Marsh or Ed Cowan can score a big hundred to secure their place whenever Shane Watson returns.
There are enough reasons to watch this Test over the next five days. Now let's just hope the match lasts that long.
Form guide(most recent first)
Players to watch ...
Last time the Adelaide Oval hosted a Test match, Nathan Lyon's main job was to cut the grass. Now his brief is to bowl offbreaks to some of the world's best handlers of spin. It has been a remarkable rise for Lyon, who joined the groundstaff in Adelaide last summer before being plucked out of net sessions by the state coach Darren Berry to play in the South Australia side. The rest is history. Expect plenty of support for Lyon in his first Test at his adopted home venue.
Virat Kohli has shown that there is batting talent in India beyond the seemingly untouchable seniors. He is yet to make that big hundred that will really launch his Test career but his 44 and 75 at the WACA were impressive contributions as wickets tumbled through India's two innings. He should enjoy batting at the Adelaide Oval, where he can make himself a permanent member of the Test side with a maiden century.
The offspinner Lyon will return, and the only question for Australia was which of the fast men would make way. The answer came on the day before the match: the left-armer Mitchell Starc was squeezed out and was named 12th man. Starc was impressive in Perth but still falls below Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and Ryan Harris in the pecking order.
Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Ed Cowan, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 Ricky Ponting, 5 Michael Clarke (capt), 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Peter Siddle, 9 Ryan Harris, 10 Ben Hilfenhaus, 11 Nathan Lyon.
Dhoni's suspension will mean the inclusion of the backup wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, while R Ashwin should return after the ill-fated experiment of using Vinay Kumar as a fourth seamer at the WACA. A progressive selection panel would consider giving Rohit Sharma a chance at the expense of the out-of-form Laxman, but India's selectors are expected to stick with the proven Laxman.
India (possible) 1 Virender Sehwag (capt), 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 VVS Laxman, 6 Virat Kohli, 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Umesh Yadav.
Pitch and conditions
The Adelaide Oval pitch is usually viewed as a batsman's paradise, but often there is something in it for the fast bowlers early on the first day. "It will always produce spin later on as the game goes," the curator Damien Hough said. "Normally there will be a little bit of inconsistent bounce on days four and five, so I wouldn't expect anything else."
The forecast for the match is hot and sunny for all five days, with temperatures expected to hit 37C on the first day.
Stats and trivia
- Virender Sehwag has captained India in three previous Tests, for two victories and a draw
- Ricky Ponting needs 81 runs to reach 13,000 in Test cricket
- Should Australia win, it will be their first series whitewash against India since 1999-2000
- Australia have won just one of the past four Adelaide Tests
"Anything less than a 4-0 defeat of this powerful Indian team will be a disappointment to all of us."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here