India v England, 3rd Test, Kolkata December 4, 2012

India under pressure amid pitch spin


Match Facts

December 5-9, Eden Gardens
Start time 9am (0330GMT)

The Big Picture

It has been a strange old few days between Test matches. Much of the talk has been about an 83-year-old groundsman and the 22 yards he is in charge of. MS Dhoni wants another pitch with spin and bounce - qualities that brought his side's downfall in Mumbai - and predictions for the surface have seemingly covered all bases. England, meanwhile, have sat back, enjoyed a few days off in Mumbai, done some charity work and worked hard in getting a key fast bowler fit.

The two results in this series - India's nine-wicket win and England's ten-wicket success - were of such convincing margins in opposite directions that it makes it difficult to really know where each team sits against each other. Yet such was the turnaround performed by England last week that the prospect of a first series win in India since 1984-85 is now a realistic ambition.

A link between the two results is that they have been achieved with a small collection of outstanding performances. In Ahmedabad it was largely Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara and Pragyan Ojha. In Mumbai the matchwinners were Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann. While some individuals have been outstanding, both teams have also carried a number of players.

For England, pressure will be on the Warwickshire pair of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell (should the latter return) to supplement Cook and Pietersen. Then, of course, there is Sachin Tendulkar. Nobody really knows what he is thinking about the future - it is all rumour and hearsay - but the bottom line is that he has averaged 22.83 this year. It's an intriguing subplot in a fascinating series.

Form guide

(Last five matches, most recent first)

England WLLDL

Watch out for...

Virat Kohli is the latest golden boy of Indian cricket. His form over the last 12 months has been outstanding, but after two lean Tests it will be interesting to see how he responds. While there was not much he could do about the ripper from Graeme Swann that dismissed him in the first Test, he played two poor shots in Mumbai, the second a horrid, inexplicable, miscuing of a full toss to mid-off. There is no doubting his talent; he will score thousands of runs, but right now perhaps he needs a little more circumspection.

So far in this series the only sign of proper pace bowling has been from Umesh Yadav who is now injured. Steven Finn is more than capable of matching him and if, as seems likely, he is recalled he will also have three weeks of pent-up frustration to unleash. That can be a double-edged sword, though, and as part of a two-man pace attack he will have to ensure he does not spray the ball around. Still, if there is any bounce in the pitch Finn will be able to find it.

Team news

There are a couple of issues in the India camp. Harbhajan Singh is suffering from flu and did not train on Tuesday, but the likelihood was a return to two quicks so it should be a straight swap for Ishant Sharma. Yuvraj Singh took a blow on the hand during training, but the early indications were that it was not too serious. There has been debate about his place in the side, however with a return to two frontline quicks and two frontline spinners, Yuvraj's part-time option could be useful.

India (probable) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 Virat Kohli, 6 Yuvraj Singh, 7 MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Pragyan Ojha

There are two changes likely for England despite victory in Mumbai. Finn is fully recovered from his thigh strain, and all indications are that he will replace the struggling Stuart Broad as the visitors attempt to spice up their pace attack. Bell, meanwhile, has returned from paternity leave, and is likely to replace Jonny Bairstow although there is a chance both could play and Samit Patel miss out.

England (probable) 1 Alastair Cook (capt.), 2 Nick Compton, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Samit Patel/Jonny Bairstow, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Graeme Swann, 9 James Anderson, 10 Steven Finn, 11 Monty Panesar

Pitch and conditions

The pitches have filled plenty of column inches in this series. The only certainty seems to be that it remains 22 yards long. "I don't think there will be much help for the spinners initially," Dhoni said. Perhaps more significantly is the location of this match. Kolkata is much further east and the daylight hours are short. Play will start at 9am, and both teams have agreed to use floodlights if needed although the forecast is for plenty of sunshine.

Stats and trivia

  • If Stuart Broad does miss out it will be first time he has been left out for tactical reasons (as opposed to injury or rotation) since the Chennai Test in 2008-09

  • In their last three Tests at Eden Gardens, India have declared their first innings at scores of 631 for 7, 643 for 6 and 616 for 5.

  • India and England have played nine times at the venue. England have won once, in 1977, while the most recent contest in 1993 was an eight-wicket win for India where England's leading wicket-taker was Graeme Hick.


"We should still stick to turning tracks. That's what our strength is. That's what home advantage means. It's not like when Australia play in Australia or when England play in England, they win all the games. Still they stick to the kind of speciality they have got. It's the same for subcontinental teams."
MS Dhoni sticks to a familiar theme

"It's disappointing he's missed two games, but it's great that he's back and we've got some tough selection meetings ahead of us. But as a captain and as a coach, that's what you want. You want people pushing for places."
Alastair Cook on having Steven Finn available again

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on December 5, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    @IndiaRulesEverybody on (December 05 2012, 00:14 AM GMT) Funny how folk notice our SA import contribution when we succeed. How do you know an English born and bred player would not have succeeded where the SA player(s) succeeded ? It's all pure supposition. BTW in test cricket you need 20 wickets to win and I don't remember any of our bowlers in recent years coming from anywhere outside of the UK. And re the last test KP succeeded what happened to Trott in that one? OK you can say no Eng player would have done what KP did but by the same token they would unlikely have done as badly as Trott

  • Zeshan on December 5, 2012, 3:58 GMT

    it will be one hell of a match, just watch and wait guys!

  • michael on December 5, 2012, 3:07 GMT

    I wish Cook could win a toss soon. Will have to do this the hard way again!

  • John on December 5, 2012, 2:51 GMT

    If cook and kp don't get favorable decision from umpires, then India will definitely win this match!

  • Rob on December 5, 2012, 2:16 GMT

    YorkshirePudding on (December 04 2012, 18:10 PM GMT) I couldn't agree more, post the series in England all our links have been swamped with bitter snipes from the trolling minority. Personally I dreaded their rather unsavoury 'revenge' coming true if I am honest, and the trillions of derogatorand vitriolic posts. Now England have won a test and posted 2 decent scores out of 3, anything else is a bonus and the using a scuffed old pitch for a test match just seems rather depreciating to test cricket.

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2012, 2:06 GMT

    I think Sachin should drop down to No.5 and give Rahane an opportunity at no.4 instead of giving Yuvraj prolonged chances

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2012, 1:58 GMT

    this match is going to be interesting, i wanted india to win mumbai test but i was not disappointed with the result, that was the reality check for team india now they and we all know where they stand.

    i don't know if some one is going to agree with me or not, but dhoni should be sacked and dropped from test team, cant say same about sachin, that man has earned so much respect in his career that it feels bad to say that he should call his day asap or start performing.

    and this series was never a revenge.. if team india want a revenge then go and beat england in england.

    best of luck to both the teams

  • James on December 5, 2012, 1:57 GMT

    England have a real dilemma of selection. It is very difficult to drop either of Broad or Bell- both proven players and match winners. For the long term future of the team, I would persist with them, because on their day, they can take the match away from the other team.

    India have already shot themselves in the leg by selecting the 15 member team. There is no cover for a middle order batsman. The extra batsmen- Rahane and Vijay both prefer the top of the order, and Vijay's recent performances do not justify his presence in the team. At least on Indian pitches- the Jadejas and the Tiwari's are not good enough. Hence, despite doubts about his fitness, Yuvraj will play. Ishant is not good enough to bowl on a flat pitch, and Dinda is slightly worse. I would have been happier with someone like Aaron, or Munaf as cover- are they injured?

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2012, 1:49 GMT

    @ Stormy16, how can you say this is next best thing to Aus V SA, don't you know that no 2 is playing no 5, so can you kindly explain next best thing.

  • Shannon on December 5, 2012, 1:44 GMT

    I must agree with "" England are no mugs, they can sense a historic series victory, and good luck to them. As an Indian cricket fan, it breaks my heart with the closed mindedness of the Indian selectors and MSD. Whinging about pitches, holding onto dead wood instead of giving the youngsters a chance, arrogantly standing in the way of the DRS. How long can they have it all their own way??

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