India under pressure amid pitch spin
Match FactsDecember 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)
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.
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