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3 minute read

Three tests, three results and wildly fluctuating fortunes is the forerunner to what shapes as another fascinating test between India and England.

Check out the Racing And Sports Preview with a few betting ideas at the end.


4th Test

23-27 February 2024 @ Ranchi

When two of the cricketing world's three big guns clash, it will always make news and so it has.

What maybe wasn't anticipated were the swings and roundabouts both within each Test and through the series – and we are only 60% through it.

Hyderabad saw the home side all over their guests like success was inevitable. Yet a third innings salute from Ollie Pope and some late order resistance gave the Barmy Army plenty to cheer about in the opening gambit. India's capitulation was strange.

Rohit Sharma has to keep leading by example
Rohit Sharma has to keep leading by example

In Visakhapatnam, the youth and freedom that came with that saw Yashasvi Jaiswal make a double ton. The rest gave just enough support to set the game forth on their trajectory.

Then last week in Rajkot, the hosts scored 400+ in both digs – the first time that had occurred to England since 1948 at Leeds where they got Bradmaned on the last day. The first time for any team since 2009.

What happened to them there was Rohit and Jadeja held their heads high on Day 1 after being 3-33 (oh how things could have changed had Joe Root held Rohit at slip). However once more it was the youngster Jaiswal with back to back doubles including a record equalling 12 sixes.

It seemed finally the dam had burst in any psychological warfare. England walked out to crowd expectation and broadcast anticipation of them maintaining their 'Bazballing'.

39 overs later and they couldn't even get the match into a final day. Indian cricket pitches lend themselves to fast paced games and wickets in clumps.

When Mark Wood top scored with 33 off 15 balls, you know things are crook.

Does Joe Root need to be so aggressive so early?
Does Joe Root need to be so aggressive so early? Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images

From there, it becomes how do England recover? Remember India had managed to secure a lead (albeit still not safe) without any involvement of their hero Virat Kohli. The birth of his second child a joyous reason.

It would seem highly duplicitous for England not to continue their methodology. Recall how proudly they explored this in the Ashes – winning the moral victory!

However what has become apparent in this series is that level of support amongst the Fourth Estate has waned. Maybe not so much that they not persist with it but that it become more judiciously used.

The trouble is there, players can lose their freedoms. They often espouse just how much flexibility McCullum and Stokes have afforded them. "Don't worry about your position – we'll back you!" is the mantra.

Players of somewhat dubious techniques have been given carte blanche. Duckett, Pope and even Crawley have a licence to thrill.

It more hits home just whether the absolute class and technical skill of Joe Root needs to be reversing and ramping so soon into his innings. Perhaps without being told he is struggling with a hand problem, you wonder why he is being asked to trundle so much.

Ben Stokes may even go bowling
Ben Stokes may even go bowling Picture: AAP Image

There is even talk of Ben Stokes returning to his medium pace ways. It has been a long time due to his knee troubles but boy would he be such a welcome addition variety and balance wise.

What we do see for Ranchi is opportunities for England. With Jasprit Bumrah rested for the crucial Test, a major weapon is relinquished. He's the only pace bowler from both teams to command total appreciation (Anderson certainly noteworthy).

England keep saying they don't and won't play for Draws. Games rarely make it into the last day (weather dependent) given the scoring rates and audacious choice of shots.

Added to that is the use of DRS and how poorly it is applied by those on field. No matter whether Umpire's Call has its application rightfully used or not, leg befores so often see umpires get it far more right than wrong and the players guess.

Whinging about it just makes them seem like the ultimate excuses are right around the corner.

Ranchi has hosted two tests before this. A long Draw in 2017 against the Aussies came about courtesy of hundreds by Steve Smith and wait for it … Glenn Maxwell against a double from Pujara.

Even then it took a long vigil on the last day by Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb of near on four hours to survive. In 2019 South Africa were blown away in just over three days through a Rohit master class.

With that in mind, the early perception was of another "interesting" 22 yards. Some of the experienced heads openly expressing doubts about what will happen. Words offered 'like dark and crumbly and a few cracks' already pre-test.

Not to make too fine a point of it but we may not see excellence with the willow here.

No Jasprit Bumrah is a huge hurdle for India
No Jasprit Bumrah is a huge hurdle for India Picture: AAP Image

Jadeja and Ashwin will always be factors but maybe Axar comes back given the circumstances. England surely resort to a similar first test attack of one quick and three tweakers.

India is in no way a good thing in terms of how they are susceptible to their own batting weaknesses. And no Bumrah leaves even more vulnerabilities but England have relied on their inexperienced spinners in Hartley, Bashir and Ahmed all series. At some stage they will get tired.

Should the pressure of seemingly all on his shoulders not hit home too hard, Rohit Sharma might be the one to be confident of scoring well. You'd say batting first is crucial on this deck – in fact it could decide the outcome.

They say a fast game is a good game. Fear we may see that here if the pitch perceptions are true.

Suggested Bets: Rohit Sharma First Innings Runs 50+ @ $2.30

Suggested Bets: Century in the Match (NO) @ $7.50

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