India lead the series 2-1 and have everything to play for a place in the World Test Championship Final in prospect if the hosts beat Australia, who have already booked a place in the top-flight clash for the World Test title. And the visitors would also like to finish the series all square, even if they cannot collect the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
Australia captain Pat Cummins has stayed home due to a family illness, giving his deputy Smith another chance to take on India in the subcontinent, which he is clearly enjoying.
“It’s a game of chess, every ball means something,” Smith said after the Indore win, which followed India’s victories in Nagpur and Delhi.
“It’s nice to just move people around and try to get the hitter to do something different and just play with them,” Smith said after the Indore triumph.
“It’s probably my favorite place in the world to be a captain.”
The Indian and Australian prime ministers are due to witness another sharply spinning wicket on Thursday at the Narendra Modi Stadium, the world’s largest cricket ground with a capacity of 132,000.
Joe Root’s England were beaten twice there two years ago, including in two days in a day-night match, the shortest test since 1935.
Despite assurances from the local Gujarat Cricket Association of “normal ground”, the two sides are again expected to choose three spinners, although India may opt for wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav instead of Axar Patel, who took only one wicket in the series.
India can also bolster their staff by dropping a Seam Launcher and bringing in the explosive Suryakumar Yadav.
Aussie spinners Nathan Lyon and Matthew Kuhnemann took full advantage of an Indore pitch officially labeled ‘poor’ by the match referee to hand Australia only their second Test victory on Indian soil since 2004 .
Kuhnemann took five wickets and Lyon three as India were rolled for 109 in their opening innings after going at bat.
Usman Khawaja’s 60 points in a 96-point stand with Marnus Lasuschagne helped Australia take an 88-point lead, despite a late collapse of 186-4 to 197.
Lyon scored 8-64 as India went 163 in their second set, before Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne easily chased the 76-point target.
India captain Rohit Sharma said he was tired of constantly focusing on playing surfaces and instead wanted to focus on exceptional bowling performances.
“This pitch talk is getting too much,” he said after the Indore test. “Whenever we play in India, it’s always about the pitch.
“Of the 10 wickets, maybe one or two where the pitch helped the bowler, but other than that it was the skill of the bowler that knocked down the batsman”.
(With contributions from the agency)