Thu, Mar 23, 4:34pm by Senior Writer
Date and Time: Saturday March 25, 3pm AEDT
Venue: HPCS Stadium, Dharamsala, India
TV: Fox Sports
What an extraordinary series it has been to date with the pride of the two leading cricketing nations on the line as India and Australia head to the foothills of the Himalayas locked at 1-1.
Test cricket has never had a Final per se, but this is surely as close as it gets, even though India can’t be displaced from the top of the world cricket rankings if they lose.
However, a defeat, just India’s second by Australia on home soil since 1968, would be a massive blow for the hosts and provide a huge fillip for the Aussies heading into the Ashes series next summer.
We head into a deciding Test match thanks to the last-day batting heroics of Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh, who delivered an old fashioned rear-guard to defy the Indian bowlers for much of Australia’s second innings.
India looked set to sweep to a 2-1 lead when they had the Aussies 4-63 on the final day, with still nearly 100 required to make the hosts bat again, but they dug in to preserve their chance to win this series with victory in Dharamsala’s first-ever Test match.
A draw or a win will keep the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia’s hands, and that is priced at $1.94.
The good news for Australia is that we aren’t expecting a typical Indian pitch, or typical Indian weather. It will be in the low 20s for much of the match, with the pitch expected to be a little green but offer plenty of bounce. That’s good news for the Aussie batsman, who like the ball coming onto the bat, especially David Warner, who despite making just 131 runs in six innings, is $4 second favourite to top score in the first innings.
The favourite for that is of course Steve Smith ($3.50), who is the series leading runscorer with 371 and the only player to have made two centuries so far. It’s remarkable that only four batsmen have made more than 200 runs ina series featuring so many quality players.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli had designs on overtaking Smith as the world’s best batsman before this series began, but having scored just 46 runs, is under major pressure to find some form. He is $3 again to top score in the first innings, with third Test double centurion Cheteshwar Pujara at $4.33 and KL Rahul at $5.50.
In terms of the bowlers, the Aussies face a battle freshening up after bowling 210 consecutive overs in Ranchi. Pat Cummins seems to have got through his 39 overs without much trouble and was the best of the Aussie bowlers. The prospect of a bouncy pitch will appeal to him and he is $3.75 to get the most wickets in the first innings.
Australia’s iron man Steve O’Keefe bowled 77 overs in Ranchi, taking him to 147 for the series, which is just shy of what Australia’s front line pacemen have bowled combined. He has 18 wickets for the series, and is $4 to be the leading Aussie bowler in the first innings in Dharamsala.
India’s spinners Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have bowled 188 and 180 overs respectively. That’s 64 per cent of India’s overs for the series and you have to wonder if that workload is taking its toll, particularly on Ashwin, who managed just two wickets in Ranchi. Nevertheless, he is still a short-priced favourite at $2.20 to be the top Indian wicket-taker in Australia’s first dig. Jadeja looks a better bet at $3.
Overall, the Aussies probably have gained some momentum coming into this match and at $1.94 to win or draw this match, looks good odds. They have shown their mental toughness throughout this series and could pull off a famous victory here in this spectacular mountain city.
Suggested Bet: Australia to win or draw at $1.94.
Top India Runscorer – 1st Innings
Virat Kohli $3
Cheteshwar Pujara $4.33
KL Rahul $5.50
Murali Vijay $5.50
Ajinkya Rahane $7
Karun Nair $8
Abhinav Mukund $9
Others: $21 or Longer
Top Aus Runscorer – 1st Innings
Steve Smith $3.50
David Warner $4
Matt Renshaw $5
Usman Khawaja $5.50
Shaun Marsh $6
Peter Handscomb $7
Marcus Stoinis $11
Others: $21 or Longer
Top India Wicket Taker – 1st Innings
Ravi Ashwin $2.20
Ravindra Jadeja $3
Umesh Yadav $5.50
Kuldeep Yadav $6
Ishant Sharma $6
Bhuvneshwar Kumar $7
Jayant Yadav $7
Hardik Pandya $10
Top Aus Wicket Taker – 1st Innings
Pat Cummins $3.75
Steve O’Keefe $4
Nathan Lyon $4
Josh Hazlewood $4.33
Ashton Agar $6
Mitch Swepson $6
Jackson Bird $8
Marcus Stoinis $9
Glenn Maxwell $10
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