Richard Mann has a strong view as England’s Test series with India moves to Rajkot on Thursday morning – get his thoughts ahead of the third Test here.
Cricket betting tips: India v England, third Test
2pts England to win the series at 11/2 (General)
1pt England to win the series 3-2 correct score at 15/2 (General)
2pts Ravi Jadeja top first-innings India batsman in the third Test at 8/1 (General)
Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook
Following two thoroughly absorbing Test matches, India and England will resume battle in Rajkot on Thursday morning, 4:00am UK time with one win each and this five-match series set up beautifully.
The hosts will hope that they have weathered the Bazball storm and following victory in Visakhapatnam, believe they now have a foothold in the series from which they can build on. All-rounder Ravi Jadeja is set to return form injury this week to provide a further boost, though Virat Kohli won’t feature in the final three matches.
For England, they must do without Jack Leach and Harry Brook – the latter in particular proving a big miss already – but they have managed without the pair so far, with Leach unable to bowl much in the first Test and missing the second with a knee problem. The positives are that England have put it up to this fine India side in their own conditions for eight days, and for many of those, have been the better team.
Bazball finds the right balance in India
You get the sense that England’s players don’t buy into the ‘Bazball’ label too much, but absolutely believe in the concept behind the nickname. They have been typically aggressive with the bat in India, but haven’t overdone it. In fact, nobody in the England team has a strike-rate of 100 or above in the series. Ben Duckett has been by some margin their fastest scorer (97.03 S-R), with Tom Hartley next best (77.55 S-R).
I’d say England have played things just about right. They have been proactive against spin, realising that prodding and poking against Ravi Ashwin and co in these conditions leaves you vulnerable and akin to a sitting duck. They have swept well, transferring pressure back onto the Indians in a way they are not accustomed, but England’s batsmen have also trusted their defence when the situation has required. Ben Stokes’ 70 in the first Test was a great example of that.
Where England have let themselves down is in the first innings. They missed a trick in the second Test when not getting close to India’s 396, and their fourth innings victory target of 399 would’ve been substantially less had they been able to find a way to keep the outstanding Jasprit Bumrah and his reverse swing at bay.
Bumrah will continue to be a huge threat with the old ball. But England should take the positives. Unlike every other away team visiting India in the last decade, they have not only nullified Ashwin, they have dominated him at times. His nine wickets so far in the series have come at an average of 36.33, and his economy rate is up at 4.08. Ashwin’s overall career average at home is 21.27, and his economy rate a miserly 2.72. England are doing something right.
Things will get tougher when Jadeja returns to the fold, but England don’t fear spin in these conditions like they did when struggling here in 2021. Ollie Pope and Zak Crawley both failed badly on that tour, but the former made a spectacular, match-winning 196 in the first Test when sweeping with aplomb, while a pair of 70s in the second Test confirmed the latter now has the game to succeed here.
England need more from Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, but Root really ought to come good at some stage. The tail has wagged, and all in all, England’s batting looks in a very good place if they can just be more ruthless in the first innings. If they put that right, given how well this England team bats in the second innings, India could be in trouble.
Anderson key as Stokes manages young attack
It’s also in the first innings where the bowling has come up fractionally short. Hartley has been excellent on his maiden tour, chalking up 14 wickets, but only three of those have come in the first dig, and Stokes found himself very reliant on James Anderson in the second Test when needing to control the run rate when the pitch looked flat and the spinners didn’t offer much of a threat.
That’s not to say England’s young attack hasn’t performed well. It has. But picking an extra seamer – in this case Ollie Robinson, who was outstanding in Pakistan last winter – would appear the sensible move this week, for all Stokes and Brendon McCullum don’t often take the sensible option. Robinson would offer much and I’m hoping he plays.
Nevertheless, Anderson’s five wickets and in an outstanding display in Visakhapatnam confirmed the 41-year-old to be right back to his best following a disappointing Ashes, and 39 wickets overall in India at 27.51 are impressive numbers in these conditions for a seam and swing bowler.
He’ll continue to be a key weapon for Stokes, and as we have seen already, Hartley and co are more than capable of taking wickets when the pitches deteriorate in the second innings.
I really do give England more than a puncher’s chance of winning the series from here. They are playing with freedom and confidence, and appear to have found a method to score runs against the spinning ball. The largely inexperienced bowling attack is holding its own and in Stokes, they have a terrific captain whom the players trust and would follow over a cliff. It’s a frightening proposition for any opposition team, and as yet, Stokes’ England have yet to lose a Test series.
Of course, beating India in their own backyard is the ultimate challenge for any Test team, but Australia ended last year’s series here on the front foot having also found a method for success in these conditions, and India can no longer revert to default and produce spinning pitches in the confidence that will guarantee success at home. All that does is bring opposition spinners into the game earlier, and the likes of Pope, Crawley, and Usman Khawaja last year, have shown that while obviously very good, India’s spinners are by no means unplayable or indeed unbeatable.
Kohli a big miss as India look vulnerable
India’s own batting has issues. Kohli is a colossal loss. Not only because of the runs he scores, but also the aura he carries and how he inspires those around him. Rohit has so far in the series failed to add substance to his classy cameos, while Shreyas Iyer has now been axed because of poor form.
Yashasvi Jaiswal has been the star of the show, but Anderson will have seen enough last time to know he will continue to cause him problems with the new ball. The hosts will certainly be relieved to have Jadeja back in that middle order, but KL Rahul is another whom they would have been desperate to have back, and there are definite chinks in this batting line-up without him and Kohli.
This series is already bubbling into a classic, one which could go down to the wire, and on what we’ve seen so far, England should be able to put themselves in positions to win one, hopefully two, more matches. As is their way, they’ll make mistakes, but so will India, and I don’t see either side running away with things from here.
With all that in mind, the 11/2 about England winning the series is too big. Even as a trade, I think there’s milage in taking the current odds, with the view of closing the bet if the scoreline is 2-2 heading into the final Test, at which point England would surely be no bigger than 5/2.
On value grounds, I’ll be backing ENGLAND TO WIN THE SERIES, and a small bet on the tourists winning the series 3-2 CORRECT SCORE is also advised at 15/2. Unless the weather spoils the party, 3-2 either way looks the most likely outcome, and there are enough reasons to believe this England team – that has been doing special things for a while now – can pull off another significant achievement.
What are the best bets for the third Test?
In the third Test itself, I’m pretty keen to side with the returning RAVI JADEJA in the top India batsman market.
8/1 is shorter than we are used to getting about the brilliant all-rounder, but it’s with good reason given how much his batting has developed. Once a dangerous lower-order dasher, Jadeja is now the real deal who has two centuries and three Test fifties in the last couple of years as the responsibility placed on his shoulders as a batsman has become ever greater.
Jadeja boasts a strong record with the bat against England too – one hundred and six half-centuries making for good reading, and he top scored in the first innings of the first Test with a measured 87, before being run out in the second innings and subsequently missing the second Test with a hamstring niggle.
Having batted in the top six in Hyderabad, and with Iyer gone and Rahul likely unavailable again, Jadeja should be up the order once more this week. Hartley is now likely to be England’s main spin threat, so I’d rather go with an Indian left-hander, especially given the success Jadeja himself, Jaiswal and even Axar Patel – all left handers – have enjoyed so far.
I’ll happily take on Jaiswal at prohibitive odds, and likely berthed in the middle order, the experienced Jadeja could be the man to hold things together for India just as he has so many times before. At 8/1, he’s worth support.
Preview published at 1510 GMT on 12/02/24
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