India and Australia amidst acrimony and very little harmony have put on one of the best Test series in recent memory so far. With the third Test in Ranchi set to come calling from Thursday, the two teams will want to grab the advantage and press forward towards winning this Test series.
While Australia won the opening Test match in Pune, making mincemeat out of the India batsmen, who looked clueless on a turning wicket, the home side bounced back brilliantly on another tricky, but infinitely better pitch – not the below average that a certain match referee has rated – in Bengaluru.
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So, what does Ranchi have in store?
Here are some of the talking points/things to look forward to from the third Test match
Kiss and make up:
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Will it happen, will it, will it? The BCCI and Cricket Australia kissed and made up in an attempt to bring the focus back to the game on the field. Anil Kumble, the India head coach, has said he will not ask his team to curb their aggression, while Virat Kohli and Steven Smith are set to meet in a bid to sort out the ill-feelings that have spilled over from the second Test, following a few DRS controversies.
Whatever happens, hopefully, the energy and aggression on the field remains, without it getting out of hand. This has, so far, been a wonderfully-contested, engaging series, and considering these are two of the best teams in the world, a little bit of needle is perfectly fine, just as long as it doesn't go overboard, like it sometimes did in Bengaluru.
Pitch, yup again:
Ok then, so what will the pitch be in Ranchi? Low and slow? A raging turner? A can't-predict-the-bounce track?
There was a bit of grass on the surface on Tuesday, and the pitch was being watered every now and then. All that could change, though, in the final 24 hours, but hopefully, we get another pitch that gives us as brilliant a Test as the one at the Chinnaswamy.
Virat Kohli runs:
With scores of 0, 13, 12 and 15, vintage Kohli has not quite landed in this Test series yet. But then, with two more to play, you wouldn't want to bet against the great man from finding form. At the moment, you feel, Kohli is just trying too hard, such is his desire to score against Australia.
If he stays in his normal zone and doesn't force the issue, the runs will come.
David Warner vs Ashwin:
Three times out of four, Warner has fallen to Ashwin – two lbws and one bowled. The one that hit his wicket was an absolute ripper, and the off-spinner clearly has Warner's number at the moment.
If the left-hander wants to be known as more than just a flat-track bully, he needs to score in this third Test match. Ashwin will be at him again, early, and how Warner copes could just set the tone for the remainder of the series.
Pat Cummins show
Losing Mitchell Starc is just about as big a blow as Australia could have had. Starc is that one bowler, who can do something special and conjure a wicket out of nowhere.
The Aussies have named a potentially-just-as-lethal replacement in Pat Cummins. While there are doubts over his fitness, if Cummins finds the right rhythm and with that pace of his, he will cause India a lot of problems.
No Dhoni in Ranchi:
How sad that in Ranchi's debut Test match, the home crowd will not be able to cheer on their favourite son. With Dhoni's Test retirement, unfortunately, Ranchi will have to do without their greatest ever player, but, no doubt, the former captain, will be watching closely, from somewhere.
The veteran has already had a hand in pitch preparations if some reports are to be believed, and maybe just the aura and feeling of Dhoni around this stadium will be enough to inspire India to victory.
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