After a spirited showing in the first test, England were swatted aside like an errant fly in the second by India; not wholly unexpected it must be said, but the manner of their second innings capitulation on a spinning surface a real concern.
The third rubber in any five-match series is crucial: defeat for Alistair Cook’s side would leave them in all sorts of trouble. They have injury problems too with Stuart Broad ruled out with a foot injury, and in will come the experienced trio of Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes and Gareth Batty for Broad, Zafar Ansari and Ben Duckett. Those moves are positive and make sense given what we have seen so far.
India have dropped wicketkeeper Wriddi Saha and replaced him with Parthiv Patel, but other than that they remain on a sure footing heading into this fixture at the ultra-spinny Mohali. In Ravis Jadeja and Ashwin, they boast a spin attack capable of winning the match on their own.
Can England somehow pull off a shock victory to keep the series alive?
The key to this match is the surface at this Punjab CA Stadium. First innings scores in the last five fixtures there have been 201, 408, 428, 453 and 469, and the low 201 score came after India were inserted by South Africa on a newly-laid wicket. Essentially, if you win the toss, bat and do a decent job, you are very much in the box-seat.
As the match the ball win turn square as the surface crumbles – and that certainly plays into India’s hands, whose spinners are far more effective than England’s. To stand any chance of winning this contest, Cook must win the toss, help his side compile 350+ in their first innings and then watch on as his spinners blast out the Indians on day five.
This is a match governed by the coin toss, in many ways, and if the Three Lions do call correctly then they are good value to produce a spirited performance. At around 3/1, they will be worth an in-play wager after the toss is completed.
The nature of the surface means that opening batsmen will have more time to find their feet against the pacemen, before the twirlers come into the attack and do their thing.
Consequently, it is Cook himself who looks a sound investment as England’s Top Batsman at 3/1. He looked in good nick in the second test and is a pretty decent player of spin bowling.
For India, it is perhaps the best willow-wielder on the planet who catches the eye, Virat Kohli. At 5/2, he is outstanding value to be his side’s leading run-scorer on a surface he averages more than 40 on.
It’s likely that the spinners will do the donkey work here; last time Mohali hosted a test 36 of the 40 wickets to fall came at the hands of the twirlers. As such, Moeen Ali is our pick as England’s top bowler at 4/1.
Ashwin is a red hot favourite for India at 5/4, so instead let’s try Jadeja at 3/1. He took eight wickets here in that 2015 test against South Africa.