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A fortress for India and Kumble

Already buoyed by a terrific victory in Mohali, the Indians couldn't have chosen a better venue to further consolidate their position and perhaps seal the series. The venue for the third Test is the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi, a ground where India have won each of their last seven Tests, and haven't lost in the last 21 years. The last team to beat them here were the formidable West Indians, and even they had to fight hard: chasing 276 for victory, they'd slumped to 111 for 4 before Viv Richards spanked an unbeaten 109 off 111 balls to see them through. That remains the highest fourth-innings score by an overseas team in India.
Three of those seven wins for India were against Zimbabwe, but they've beaten much tougher opponents here as well: Australia were vanquished in 1996, while Pakistan and Sri Lanka were the latest sides to succumb in Delhi. For Australia, the venue won't bring back fond memories: of the five times they've played here, only once have they tasted victory, but in their last four Tests Australia have lost twice.

India have excellent recent results here, but the Feroz Shah Kotla wasn't always such a favourite for India: in 11 Tests here between 1972 and 1992, they lost five times and didn't win once. Since then, though, the script has changed completely.

The one player who has relished the conditions here more than any other is the Indian captain. Anil Kumble has grabbed 55 wickets at this ground in just six Tests - including that ten in an innings against Pakistan in 1999 - at an incredible average of 15.41, which is his best among venues where he has played more than one Test. Of his ten Man-of-the-Match awards in his Test career, three have come in Delhi, including the last two times he played here. Harbhajan Singh hasn't done badly either, though his numbers pale when compared to Kumble's.

Kumble has also been helped by the fact that the batsmen have all been among the runs here. Sourav Ganguly heads the list, with four 50-plus scores in six Tests here and an average of more than 60, while Rahul Dravid, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and VVS Laxman all average more than 50. The only one among the big four who hasn't quite enjoyed the pitch here is Sachin Tendulkar - his average in Delhi is a relatively ordinary 44.

Among the Australians, Ricky Ponting is the only one from the current squad to have played a Test here. He managed just 27 runs in two innings.

Virender Sehwag scored 74 in his only Test innings here.
Traditionally, the Feroz Shah Kotla has been a delight for spinners, which is why Australia might not relish the prospect of needing a win here to level the series. Spinners have taken 141 out of 217 wickets in the last seven Tests, at an average of less than 28. Fast bowlers average nearly 40 per wicket, with Javagal Srinath the only one to take a five-for. Among the spinners, Kumble (four times), Harbhajan, Saqlain Mushtaq (twice) and Muttiah Muralitharan have five-wicket hauls in the last seven matches here.

With spinners having such a say in proceedings, it's hardly surprising that the captain winning the toss has batted first in each of the 29 Tests here. What is surprising, though, is the fact that only five out of 16 decisive results have gone in favour of the team winning the toss. On four of those five occasions the team winning the toss was India; the only overseas team to win a Test here after winning the toss is England, way back in 1976.

The table below suggests that batting first hasn't made a huge difference in recent Tests in Delhi. Come Wednesday, though, and the captain winning the toss will still almost certainly choose to put the runs on the board.