England’s surprise victory in Mumbai has given them the momentum heading in to the third Test at the Eden Gardens. After the trouncing they received in Ahmedabad, they would not have expected to be in this situation but now have the chance to strike a decisive blow in the series. Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann will once again play a key role but the Kolkata pitch is expected to offer something to the seamers on the first couple of days as well. That means the better balanced side should have the advantage.
Here’s a look at what England have to do if they are to come out ahead in Kolkata.
The stability Alastair Cook provides at the top will obviously continue to be crucial to England’s chances but Nick Compton’s cameo in the second innings at the Wankhede, which included a six off Pragyan Ohja, suggest he might have a bigger role to play this time around. England’s openers have yet to share a substantial partnership in this series; their best is 66. With the middle-order looking shaky, a solid start should calm the nerves lower down the order and allow the rest of their batsmen to bat freely, particularly against the spinners.
England’s strength is recent years has been their middle order but barring one Kevin Pietersen special, the middle-order has failed to get going in this series. Except Pietersen, only Patel has managed a double-figure average thus far, and his is a less-than-stellar 12. Pietersen has also shown he can be brilliant and brutal or clueless and confused. If the clueless Pietersen re-emerges in Kolkata, then England will most likely struggle. He is the one batsman who can take the game away from India and England need him to be at his confident, arrogant best.
England also needs Trott to find his form – he is averaging 5.66 in this series – to protect against the loss of an early wicket and to soften the bowlers up for Pietersen.
Matt Prior has been the other consistent batting performer for England after Cook. His glove work has been far superior to that of MS Dhoni’s and he has contributed important runs down the order (he is averaging 53.33). Prior is also more comfortable against seam than spin, so should find batting at the Eden Gardens easier than Mumbai. More of the same from him is what England need.
Graeme Swann is the leading wicket-taker in this series, tied with Ohja on 14 wickets. Monty Panesar is next in line with 11, having played just one Test, but that Test resulted in career-best figures of 11 for 210, so his confidence is bound to be sky high. Together the pair have accounted for 83% of India’s wickets that have fallen so far.
The Kolkata pitch will not turn as much from day one though, and the same kind of bounce won’t be on offer either. Both spinners will therefore need to adjust their lines and lengths to make the most of the pitch, and give the ball a little more air to lure the batsmen forward. How well they do that will dictate how successful they will be.
England’s seamers have been ineffectual so far but a fit Steven Finn gives them something to thing about and he could replace Stuart Broad. Tim Bresnan and Broad have failed to take a wicket in the series and James Anderson only has two. Finn brings a different dimension to the attack, able to extract bounce with his height and pace, and would therefore present the Indian batsmen with a new problem. He does have a tendency to lose his line and length, however, so he will need to be disciplined or risk giving India easy scoring opportunities.