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There are exciting challenges ahead for England and India in the batting-friendly city of Rajkot, according to sports writer Tanya Aldred.
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There are exciting challenges ahead for England and India in the batting-friendly city of Rajkot, according to sports writer Tanya Aldred.

The third Test between India and England will take place in ajkot, a location situated on the western coast of India known as the T-shirt sleeve peninsula. This venue, while not as popular as the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, has seen two Tests and a total of nine centuries. The pitches in ajkot are notorious for being easy to bat on, hence earning the nickname “paata.”

Cheteshwar Pujara, a beloved son of Rajkot and Hove, has a similar playing style to India’s coach, Rahul Dravid. Pujara, who just turned 36, achieved the milestone of scoring 20,000 first-class runs during a Ranji trophy match in January, placing him among the greats of Indian cricket such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, and Sunil Gavaskar. He also scored a century in a recent first-class match. However, despite former head coach Anil Kumble’s suggestions, it is unlikely that Pujara will be recalled to the team. Both India and England have chosen to focus on young players instead of experienced ones.

Following a time of inactivity, Shubman Gill has seemingly solidified his spot as Pujara’s replacement at No 3 for the series after his crucial score of 104 in the second innings at Vizag. This helped India maintain a safe distance from England’s pursuit. However, with Pujara no longer being a physical presence in the team, Dravid will hope that some of his personal traits remain, as Virat Kohli has previously stated: “Pujara teaches us the value of patience.” This quality is extremely valuable when facing Bazball.

Without Pujara and Kohli for the remainder of the series, India’s impressive batting lineup appears to be lacking in power. However, Rohit Sharma has yet to reach his full potential and it is possible that KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja will make a comeback in the third Test, if their injuries allow. Fortunately, the new batters will not have to face the challenging turning pitches that England struggled with in 2021.

The Rajkot Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium was constructed in 2009 and is a modern stadium with bucket seats and solar panels, accommodating 28,000 spectators. It is located approximately two hours away from the city by walking. In England’s previous Test match at this stadium in 2016-17, it turned out to be the first game of a disappointing five-Test tour. The pitch was highly favorable for batting, resulting in six centuries being scored (including Pujara’s second quickest and Ben Stokes’s second slowest). Captain Alastair Cook’s second innings score of 130 set up a conservative run chase, with India needing to score more than six runs per over for victory.

England’s Jimmy Anderson bowls a delivery on the third day of the second Test between India and England in Visakhapatnam

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England made a strong effort, relying on their three spinners Zafar Ansari, Moeen Ali, and Adil Rashid to take control on the dusty square. However, they were unable to secure a victory as time ran out. This was their only opportunity to win, as the rest of the series quickly went downhill, including the one-day and Twenty20 matches.

It is unlikely that Stokes and the England team will slowly set a pace to achieve a six-run target per over against India. Stokes himself would enjoy such a challenge in his 100th Test match. However, he is not the only one with a milestone to reach. Ashwin is still in search of his 500th wicket, which he thought he had achieved in Vizag when Tom Hartley was caught in the second innings. However, England’s review and the third umpire’s decision ruined the celebration. Anderson, who is in great form, is just five Test wickets away from reaching his 700th, and he has his sights set on surpassing Shane Warne’s 708.

Whether he will have any fast bowling back-up in the third Test, from Mark Wood or the peroxided Ollie Robinson, depends on what the pitch doctors reveal later this week. A somewhat exasperated Dravid was also keeping his cards close to his chest. “Curators make the pitches. We don’t ask for rank turners.

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“Tracks in India are known to spin, but the level of spin can vary. I am not an expert in predicting this. Sometimes it is said that the tracks will start spinning on the third day, but in reality they spin from the first day. Other times, it is said they will spin on the second day, but they may not spin until the fourth day. So, I am often just as uncertain as everyone else. We assess the wicket and make the best of what we have been given.”

It is uncertain if England will be able to produce anything from the “paata” until Thursday. After storing away their golf clubs, they will face two consecutive Tests in Rajkot and Ranchi, followed by a final match in the Himalayan foothills.

We will only be able to determine if Stokes can become a Test captain like Cook, Douglas Jardine, Tony Greig, and David Gower by winning a series in India. This would break their streak of 11 years without losing a Test series on their home turf.

Source: theguardian.com