India v Australia
Thursday 16 March 04.00
TV: live on Sky Sports
India levelled the series with a come-from-behind victory in Bangalore and it is fair to say they have the momentum while Australia are beginning to wilt.
They are boosted by the return of opener Murali Vijay while Ravi Jadeja joined Ravi Ashwin as the joint-No 1 bowler in the world according to ICC rankings.
Virat Kohli could do with some runs, however, and perhaps he took out his frustration by accusing Steve Smith of cheating by asking the dressing room for assistance on a DRS decision. Or maybe these two sides will just never, ever get on. Either way, India ruffled the Aussies and are cock of the walk.
If the Ranchi pitch takes turn - and, frankly, it would be amazing if it didn't - then Jayant Yadav could play as a third spinner at the expense of Karun Nair.
It's not been a great few days for the Aussies. They surrendered an unexpected lead, were embarrassed by the DRS accusations and then lost the services of both Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Marsh to injury.
They are used to being without Starc but Marsh helped with their balance. His performances have been poor but they were clearly hampered by his shoulder niggle.
So Australia must choose from Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis or Ashton Agar at No 6. It's like being asked whether you want your gruel cold or lukewarm. Maxwell would be the best of a very average bunch because he can at least pretend to bat and bowl spin. Stoinis and Agar can only do one or the other.
Pat Cummins will replace Starc and it is good to see a Test return for him after five years of injury misery. When fit he is a very dangerous bowler indeed.
There have been no Tests played at Ranchi so we are in the dark slightly as to how this one will play. If we use ODI as our guide, we are pretty sure that there will be good turn. Spinners have held sway in the four matches. Smith has said the pitch looks like "rolled mud". Given the weather will be hot it would be a surprise if that didn't break up and make batting treacherous in third- and fourth-innings.
India are [1.66], Australia [4.0] and the draw is [6.2]. India are no value at those odds and they've been chalked up as if they have already won the toss.
Make no mistake, unless India bat first here they are bad value. The Ranchi wicket appears to have been played on recently with footmarks present. There is no grass and there are suggestions that the groundsman gave Kohli three pitches to choose from.
The Aussies are angry. But why? If they win the toss here and bat, they may need only a lead of no more than 200 to go 2-1 up. It really could be an extraordinary gamble by India which backfires.
Why India feel the need to do it is anyone's guess. If a decent wicket was prepared they would probably win anyway. But if they lose the toss here they are perilously close to going behind.
Kohli averages 261 at the venue in ODI and he has a half-century against the Aussies to boot. With just 40 runs so far in the series there is a sense that he will surely break his bad run. And the [3.75] available is a decent offering.
With 172 runs Smith leads Matt Renshaw by eight as Australia top runscorer. Smith is [3.75] and Renshaw a hefty [6.6]. The gulf there is unfair. Maxwell got 92 against India on this ground in the ODI mentioned above. It could be that some late, desperate hitting sees a whopper of a price come in. Maxwell is [9.4].
1pt Back Australia if they bat 1st at [4.0]
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017.
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