The Test series between Australia and India is evenly poised. What twists and turns are in store ahead of the final Test?
1) Who will have the momentum on Saturday, when the fourth Test starts in Dharamsala?
Both captains tried to claim it would be their respective sides. Australia clearly finished the stronger team and would have felt more buoyant after day five, but they will be concerned about how India slowly but surely overhauled their first-innings total and took control of the contest on day four.
2) What would another drawn Test mean?
The series would finish drawn at 1-1. It would be an unsatisfying result for both teams, but somewhat of a victory for the tourists as they would retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy. The win in Pune was Australia’s first Test victory in India since 2004. Steve Smith’s side are gunning for the nation’s second series win in India since 1969.
3) What should be expected from the pitch?
The unexpected, especially given it is hosting its first-ever Test. The surface in Ranchi provided a reminder of why you should never judge a deck on what it looks like. Smith fully expected another early finish, as was the case in Pune and Bangalore, but it held together quite well. Dharamsala is renowned for its pace and carry, but Australia found out how little reputations mean when they played on a spin-friendly pitch at the venue during last year’s World Twenty20.
4) What is going on with India captain Virat Kohli?
Kohli is being belted in his personal battle with counterpart Steve Smith. Smith is the leading run-scorer of the series with 371 at 74.2, including two tons. Kohli has 46 runs at 9.2. Kohli has clearly been rattled but Australia will remain wary, knowing the superstar is one of the best batsmen in the world and capable of winning both the Test and series in Dharamsala.
5) What is the physical state of Pat Cummins and Australia’s other bowlers?
Sore. Justifiably so. Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe toiled for a staggering 210 overs in the field during India’s marathon innings. All of them will be carefully managed this week, especially with a short turnaround before the final Test starts on Saturday. It will lead to further discussion and debate about allrounder Glenn Maxwell only bowling four overs in Ranchi.
6) Will selectors on either side swing the axe?
It’s hard to imagine the visitors making any changes unless forced to because of injuries. Glenn Maxwell made the most of his chance, making it hard to see how Marcus Stoinis can come into calculations even if the deck suits his medium-pacers more. India may opt to rejig their attack and rush paceman Mohammed Shami back into their XI.