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24-Mar-2017 10:10:00 GMT
India v Australia, 4th Test, Dharamsala

India and Australia set for season-defining match

Dharamsala: Australian No.2 spot remains in danger as they might drop a place if they lost to India and South Africa beat New Zealand at Hamilton.

This series has been a great advertisement of Test cricket with ebbs and flows, with fortunes fluctuating wildly, with teams bouncing back when pushed to a corner.

It is against this backdrop that the HPCA Stadium braces for its Test debut. And, as has been the case all series, one of the biggest talking points has been how the pitch will play.

For once, though, even pitch-talk on the eve of a Test in India was forced to take a back seat.

It must take something extraordinary for the surface to the relegated to the background; the danger of Virat Kohli missing a home Test, any Test, through injury is extraordinary enough.

India faces the very genuine possibility of squaring up for the decider without its mercurial leader, still feeling the effects of the shoulder injury sustained while fielding in Ranchi last week.

India will wait till the morning to see if its captain is available to lead the side to battle. If he is not, then Ajinkya Rahane will walk out for the toss in a Test match for the first time, and Shreyas Iyer will make his maiden appearance because it is pretty much certain that India will continue to go in with six specialist batsmen.

Warner is only to a lesser degree to Australia what Kohli is to India. Smith is the best batsman in the Australian line-up but Warner clearly is the more impactful player, setting the tempo early on when he is teeing off and transferring without subtlety heaps of pressure on to the opposition.

Australia is pretty set to go in with an unchanged XI unless it reads the surface differently in the morning and pick a third seamer in Jackson Bird, or if it feels the returning Pat Cummins or Hazlewood need their workloads reassessed.

India will toss up between Ishant Sharma, effective only in patches, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, whose presence should allow the think-tank to extend its horses-for-courses policy.

Teams from:

Virat Kohli (capt), Lokesh Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Shreyas Iyer, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Jayant Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund.

Australia: Steven Smith (capt), David Warner, Matt Renshaw, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade (wk), Pat Cummins, Steve O'Keefe, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Ashton Agar, Mitchell Swepson, Jackson Bird, Usman Khawaja, Marcus Stoinis.

Pitch conditions
Dharamsala should have pleasant weather through the Test, with maximum temperatures in the low-to-mid-20s, with forecasts of rain towards the second half of the match.

Stats and trivia

  • Dharamsala will become the 27th Test venue in India
  • If Australia beat India, they will first series win in India since 2004.

Match facts
March 25-29, 2017
Start time 0930 local (0400 GMT)

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