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India eye whitewash, New Zealand stronger fight with Williamson

Match facts

October 8-12, 2016
Start time 0930 local (0400 GMT)

Big Picture

As we move from Kanpur's correct Hindi to Kolkata's formal and slightly archaic English to the delightful informal mix of Hindi and Urdu in Indore, one thing has not changed. Kanpur's Green Park is a 10-minute walk from the district court. One of Kolkata's Eden Garden's ends is called the High Court End. And now Indore's Holkar Stadium turns out to be located under a kilometre from the Madhya Pradesh High Court. It is fitting considering a larger court's shadow has loomed while the series has gone on.

The Kanpur press box was used by Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri to further the BCCI's old guard's view; president Anurag Takur himself made a visit to the Eden Gardens press box. None of it could make you look away from some high-quality Test cricket watched by encouraging crowds barring the second day of Kolkata. Indore, making its Test debut, has thrown up thousands to just watch the nets; this Test should be a spectacle too.

The scoreboard reads 2-0 India, which is obviously a fair indicator, but the margins of defeats - 197 runs and 178 runs - don't do New Zealand justice. R Aswhin, the series' leading bowler, was gracious enough to acknowledge the fight New Zealand have shown despite injuries and limited experience in such challenging conditions. "The best thing about this New Zealand team is they don't give anything easily," Ashwin told bcci.tv. "They have come with a gameplan, and it is really showing. They are making us work very hard for every single wicket and run."

As New Zealand try to avoid a whitewash against the No. 1-ranked Test side in the world, they will be buoyed by the return of their captain Kane Williamson, who missed the Kolkata Test because of illness. Williamson said he was "certainly very hopeful" of playing as he worked to get his energy levels back up after a virus attack. It's not just New Zealand who have had to fight injuries and illnesses. India have lost Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar from their bowling department. The loss of two openers - KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan - will result in uncertainty at the top as Gautam Gambhir looks to come back once again, at a week short of 35.

India have kept finding ways to win crucial moments and sessions in this series. With uncertainty around their board, they will need to keep finding ways if they are to realise their unstated - for obvious reasons of not putting too much pressure on themselves - dream of going unbeaten through the whole home season.

Form guide

India WWDWD (last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand LLLDW

In the spotlight

Tom Latham, who doesn't play too much limited-overs cricket at the international level, has never played in such heat and humidity. He has fought awfully hard for 455 minutes in the middle, but has still been able to get only 135 runs in four innings. He has been playing a game that doesn't come naturally to him, which has brought him the respect of the opposition, but he will want to play that big innings that defines a match.

Rohit Sharma paid back the first instalment for the faith shown in him by the team management when he scored 82 runs coming in at 43 for 4 in India's second innings in Kolkata. His critics worry this might just be a one-off. Now the second-highest run-scorer in the series, Rohit himself said he has not been under any pressure; even if he was, this innings should have eased it, but he will also know the next instalment should not take too long.

New Zealand spinners are rarely asked to win Tests on their own. They are usually asked to do the containing role to support their quicks. As in Kanpur, they will again be asked to win New Zealand the Test. Right now they average 35 (Micthell Santner), 50 (Ish Sodhi) and 58 (Jeetan Patel). They will need to cut out the loose balls for starters, and then give the ball enough opportunity to assume the natural variation off a pitch that looks dry.

Team news

India have lost Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shikhar Dhawan from the last Test. Gambhir should replace Dhawan, and depending on the nature of the pitch either Umesh Yadav or Amit Mishra should come in. A left-field selection could mean a debut for either paceman Shardul Thakur or offspinner Jayant Yadav.

India (probable): 1 M Vijay, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt.), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 R Ashwin, 8 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 9 Ravindra Jadeja, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Amit Mishra/ Umesh Yadav

Williamson's return will mean Henry Nicholls misses out with Martin Guptill expected to be given another chance. Matt Henry's impressive performance in Kolkata could mean he stays in and Neil Wagner makes way for the third spinner Ish Sodhi.

New Zealand (probable): 1 Tom Latham, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson (capt.), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Luke Ronchi, 6 Mitchell Santner, 7 BJ Watling (wk), 8 Matt Henry/Neil Wagner, 9 Jeetan Patel, 10 Ish Sodhi, 11 Trent Boult

Pitch and conditions

The Indore pitch is known to provide assistance for quicks and value for shots, but don't expect it at the cost of home advantage. The word is that the pitch is expected to behave similarly to Kanpur. Virat Kohli said it was a hard surface, which should have some carry. Williamson, though, said the pitch was soft and bare at both ends. He expected turn, but also felt that the softness of the pitch with the weather around was a factor. There has been some rain around in the lead-up to the Test, but the forecast is for an uninterrupted match.

Stats and trivia

  • Virat Kohli has won all his six tosses at home

  • India have been unbeaten in their last 13 home Tests. They have won 11 and drawn two

  • Samandar Singh Chauhan, the curator at Holkar Stadium, is the man responsible for the pitches that gave ODI cricket its first two double-hundreds. Sachin Tendulkar did it in Gwalior, and Virender Sehwag here

  • Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and BJ Watling have averaged under 20 in this series

Quotes

"One thing that stands out for me as a learning is how to control a session that's not going your way. The session when the other team is batting well, you should know how to control runs and at the same time not go negative."
India captain Virat Kohli on one of the more important lessons he has learned as a Test captain

"We know we are up against a stiff challenge in India but at the same time we are yet to have played our best cricket. Although we've come off the back of a couple of losses we do feel if we can put out our best performance we can get a result in this part of the world. But we certainly need to improve on our last couple."
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson wants his team to be at its best