India v Australia, 3rd Test, Feroz Shah Kotla October 28, 2008

Buoyant India look to seal series


Amit Mishra might be reduced to doing the waterboy's job again despite his outstanding debut in Mohali © Getty Images
 

Match facts

Oct 29-Nov 2, 2008
Start time 9.30am (0400 GMT)

Big Picture

The 320-run drubbing for Australia at the hands of India in Mohali means the hosts have all the momentum and confidence going into the third Test, in Delhi. The leadership might have changed hands - Anil Kumble takes over from the inspired Mahendra Singh Dhoni - but that is unlikely to affect the buoyant Indians, especially given the track record of team and captain at this venue: India have won the last seven Tests here, and Kumble has a rich haul of 55 wickets from six Tests at an average of 15.41. Almost all the Indian batsmen have been among the runs in this series, the fast bowlers have asked plenty of questions of the opposition batsmen with their reverse-swing and accuracy, and the spinners - including a debutant - have helped themselves to a bagful of wickets as well. Things couldn't be any rosier for India.

For Ricky Ponting, though, the tour has been full of thorns. His own form has come undone after a splendid start in Bangalore, but even worse, he could only watch helplessly as his team was completely outclassed in Mohali. The one-week break could not have come at a better time for Australia, and while Ponting has said the team's work ethic has been outstanding during this period - "Steve Waugh was at training yesterday [Monday] and he said he'd never seen a team train as well as we did" - what matters is how the players translate that into performance in the middle. Australia have so far been badly let down by the senior players - Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Michael Clarke and Brett Lee have all been below par - and they need at least a couple of them to turn in match-winning performances to claw back in the series.

Form guide (last 5 Tests)

India WDLWL
Australia LDWDW

Watch out for

Matthew Hayden hasn't been among the runs so far, but he is too good a player to go four Tests without making a significant contribution. He was unlucky with a couple of marginal decisions in Bangalore, and if the rub of the green goes his way Hayden could well stamp his authority on the Delhi Test.

Michael Clarke has had a lean run so far, twice falling in the last over of the day, but his 69 in Mohali showed he is coming to terms with the conditions in India. His ability to use his feet against spin makes him a key member of Australia's batting line-up.

Anil Kumble: You can't argue with his record in Delhi: 55 wickets in six Tests at an average of 15.41. Even if he isn't at his deadliest, Kumble could be a major threat here.

Sehwag and Gambhir: The Feroz Shah Kotla is the home ground for both Indian openers, and given their form in the series so far, expect more fireworks from them at the start of India's innings.

Team news

Kumble is certain to return to the team, which means Amit Mishra, who made an outstanding debut in Mohali, or Harbhajan Singh will make way. Mishra would have sat out in normal circumstances, but a toe injury that Harbhajan sustained towards the end of the Mohali Test makes matters more uncertain, with a final decision expected only on the morning of the match.

India 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 Sourav Ganguly, 6 VVS Laxman, 7 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), 8 Anil Kumble (capt), 9 Harbhajan Singh/ Amit Mishra, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Ishant Sharma.

Stuart Clark is back in the reckoning after missing the previous match due an elbow injury. He will replace Peter Siddle, while Jason Krejza has been named in the 12-man shortlist as well. Krejza had a terrible time in the tour game, and it's unlikely Australia will take a chance with him even in conditions expected to favour spin.

Australia (likely) 1 Matthew Hayden, 2 Simon Katich, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Shane Watson, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Cameron White, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Mitchell Johnson, 11 Stuart Clark.

Pitch & conditions

Radhey Shyam, the curator, has a track record of making pitches which suit Kumble, and there is every likelihood of another spin-friendly surface over the next five days. If that's the case the toss could be crucial yet again. Though the weather is expected to remain clear, the morning smog and the early sunset could both eat into playing time.

Stats & Trivia

  • India have won the last seven Tests in Delhi, but in the 20-year period from 1972 to 1992, they hadn't won a single match out of 11, losing five and drawing six.

  • Kumble has won the Man-of-the-Match award in the last two Tests in Delhi. Overall, three of his ten match awards have come in Delhi.

  • In all 29 Tests here, the captain winning the toss has chosen to bat. However, out of 16 decisive results, the team winning the toss has won the game only five times. England are the only overseas team to win the toss and the match.

  • Even though India have won the last seven Tests here, they've struggled with their opening partnerships: the average stand during this period is 17.23, with only one half-century stand in 13 innings. Opposition teams have fared only slightly better, averaging 24.71 in 14 innings. The overall opening stand of 21.11 in the last seven Tests suggests there's something in the track for the new-ball bowlers.

  • Spinners have taken nearly two-thirds of the wickets here in the last seven Tests - their 141 wickets have come at an average of 27.52. Fast and medium-fast bowlers have taken 76 wickets at 39.08.

Click here for more stats.

Quotes

"I've tried to completely dismiss last week. It was one of those games where we were totally outplayed and what you've got to do is look at reasons why. You learn your lessons and push on."
Ricky Ponting tries to take the positives out of what has so far been a poor tour for the Australians

"Going by the record we have at the Kotla and the kind of cricket we played in Mohali, it certainly gives us a lot of confidence going into the game. We are fully confident that we will be able to win the series here."
Anil Kumble is expectedly upbeat ahead of the Delhi Test

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo