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England's third Test posers: One spinner or two, and how does the top three line up?

Plenty to ponder as England weigh up their XI for the pink-ball Test in Ahmedabad

George Dobell
George Dobell
Despite a chastening defeat in last week's second Test, England sense a real opportunity to reclaim the series lead in Ahmedabad, due to the prospect of a day-night Test playing to their seam-bowling strengths. But dare they presume too much about a venue that has never hosted a Test before?
Two spinners or one?
This is the biggest question occupying England's team management ahead of this game. While they are confident the pink ball (and the slightly more grassy pitch provided to accommodate it) will provide more assistance to seam bowlers, they are still playing a Test in Ahmedabad. Under that live grass is the more familiar dry red soil which suggests there will, sooner or later, be assistance for the spinners, too. For that reason, England will not make a final decision about their XI until after their final training session, which is under lights on Tuesday evening.
The form of Dom Bess may be relevant here. For, while England may be facing this selection dilemma in any circumstances, you suspect that, were Moeen Ali available for this game, he would play. But Bess struggled with his length in Chennai - in particular, with a series of full-tosses - so there may be just a hint of trepidation about picking him for another Test at this stage. Put simply, if part of Bess' role is to bowl dry, England may feel they can achieve that better with another seamer.
"One thing we could improve with the ball was the amount of times we couldn't quite string a maiden together or bowl six balls at one batter," Root said on Tuesday. "We've still got to look to build pressure for long periods of time, try to squeeze the game, make it very difficult for guys to score freely and score boundaries, and by doing that build pressure at one end and on one batter to try to force an error."
But Leach will play?
Yes, Leach will play. After a tricky 14 months or so in which Leach has been seriously unwell and Bess has been favoured as the solitary spinner in England, he is back in the side and established as first-choice. In English conditions, where spin could play a less prominent role and the spinner's batting may be deemed more important, that could change. But for now, Leach is England's No. 1.
So who would the extra seamer be?
Chris Woakes has been a non-playing member of this tour party for every one of the four Tests to date and is due to go home next week. But this could be his moment. While his overseas record with the ball is modest, the usage of the pink ball - and the increased opportunities it appears to bring for conventional swing bowling - may be key. Equally, although it's a small sample size, evidence from England's tours to New Zealand and South Africa suggested Woakes had found a way to be effective without the use of the Dukes ball or English pitches.
But his batting may be as important as his bowling in this scenario. Unless he plays, England could be facing the prospect of one of Leach or Jofra Archer batting at No. 8. That's a tail which would make a Diplodocus feel self-conscious.
Don't England already have three seamers in their side?
Yes, they do. It seems to get over-looked a little at present, but Ben Stokes has 159 Test wickets and, unlike James Anderson or Stuart Broad, he has a Test five-for (in Mohali in 2016) in India. But Stokes has only bowled 12 overs in the series to date and has not bowled more than six in an innings since July. While England say he is fit, he doesn't seem to have been able to build up the volume of overs to be relied upon as the bowling force he has been in the past. In an ideal world, though, this is the exact scenario in which a top-quality all-rounder proves their worth: allowing a team to hedge their bets with selection as they know they have all bases covered.
Could Broad return?
It's possible but it seems unlikely. While Stokes said that Broad was among the England seamers "licking their lips" at the prospect of using the pink ball under lights, it seems he may be frustrated. You could make a decent case to play him ahead of Woakes, but Broad's declining powers as a batsman count against him. Equally, you could make a case for him to play ahead of Archer, particularly if Stokes is able to provide the pace bowling that he has in the past. But England regard Archer's skills - not just his pace, but his movement - as a point of difference. Many of Broad's qualities - not least his control - can be provided by Anderson. And, don't forget this is the first of another couple of back-to-back Tests. It fits with England's recent policy to keep Broad fresh for the final Test.
What about the top-order batting?
The return to fitness of Zak Crawley and the return to the tour of Jonny Bairstow has given England options at the top of the order. That is almost certain to mean Dan Lawrence - who has averaged 9.66 in his three most recent Tests - will make way for Bairstow at No.3, who looked assured in Sri Lanka prior to his break from the tour (though without reaching 50 in any of his four innings).
Where does that leave Rory Burns?
Sitting precariously, you would think. Not so long ago, there was talk of him emerging as a future England captain and he looked to be on the brink of establishing himself in this side. You wonder how he reflects on his first-innings dismissal in the first Test in Chennai. Having got himself in on the flattest of surfaces, he had every chance to convert his start into a significant innings. Instead, he attempted a reverse-sweep - a shot he has rarely played in Test cricket - and departed for 33. Had he made a century there, this discussion wouldn't be happening. But since the start of August he has played five Tests (eight innings) and averaged just 9.75. With Ravi Ashwin and Ishant Sharma especially effective against left-handers, there is a case for replacing him with Crawley.
"It's been quite tricky for everyone," Root said. "But in particular the lefties against Ashwin because of how skilful he is, how good his record has been against our left-handers, and in world cricket against any left-handed batters."
Crawley has hardly made an irresistible case for selection himself, though. He had a top-score of just 13 from four innings in Sri Lanka and looked as if he had plenty to learn about combatting spin in such conditions. For that reason, the team management may decide to give Burns one more chance. Crawley is seen a major developing talent, though, and it's not impossible he could replace Burns. Dom Sibley, having found himself under pressure only a few weeks ago, has emerged as England's first-choice Test opener.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo