Cricket

IND Vs ENG, 5th Test Preview: Dharamsala All Set To Become Milestone Destination

India maintained their envious record at home by sealing the series in Ranchi, with a 3-1 lead against England. Now, they will be looking for another favourable result to extend their lead in the ICC World Test Championship standings

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India's Ravichandran Ashwin and Sarfaraz Khan during a practice session ahead of the fifth Test cricket match against England at the HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala on March 5, 2024. Photo: PTI
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India's premier off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will be eyeing a memorable outing in his landmark 100th Test when the unassailable hosts face a fallen England in the finale of what has been a riveting five-match series in Dharamsala on Thursday. (Scorecard |IND Vs ENG Day 1 Blog |Streaming | More Cricket News)

India maintained their envious record at home by sealing the series in Ranchi and now, they will be looking for another favourable result to extend their lead in World Test Championships standings.

The pitch and the cold weather, that is making the English feel at home, have been the two big talking points going into the game.

The maximum temperature is expected to hover around 10 degrees for the opening two days before rising over the weekend.

The pitch wore a flat look on the eve of the game but the moisture seeped underneath will keep the pacers interested in the early hours of play on all days.

Though traditionally, the venue favours fast bowlers, the role of spinners can't be discounted and they did play a big part in India's win over Australia in the one and only Test played here back in 2017.

In the recently held four Ranji Trophy games, the teams were able to score 300 plus on multiple occasions with the highest total of the season being 482 posted by Baroda.

Ashwin and Jonny Bairstow, both of whom will make their 100th Test appearance on Thursday, expressed contrasting views on the surface going the match. Bairstow found the pitch 'nice' while Ashwin said both teams will be entering unknown territory considering the cold weather.

India are, however, unlikely to tinker with their bowling combination of two pacers and three spinners.

A view of the HPCA Stadium ahead of the fifth Test cricket match between India and England in Dharamshala on March 6, 2024.
A view of the HPCA Stadium ahead of the fifth Test cricket match between India and England in Dharamshala on March 6, 2024. Photo: -PTI
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Jasprit Bumrah will return to bolster the attack with Mohammed Siraj being the second pacer. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav, who has been able to play only 11 Tests since making a successful debut back here in 2017, will share the duties in the spin department.

KL Rahul not regaining full fitness even for this game could provide another opportunity to the struggling Rajat Patidar, who has found bizarre ways to get out in his debut series, aggregating only 63 runs in six innings at number four.

The game could be his one last chance to keep a place in the squad.

Devdutt Padikkal, who is a top-order batter, is another option that the team management has in the middle-order.

Two-Test-old Sarfaraz Khan could not score big in Ranchi after a stellar debut in Rajkot and he will be desperate to make it big before the red ball season comes to a close.

The rest of the batters have also made their presence felt over the course of five games especially Yashasvi Jaiswal, who is within touching distance of becoming the second Indian after the great Sunil Gavaskar to amass 700 runs in a series.

Mental fatigue hasn't set in as England aim to end tour on a high

England have already lost the series, their first in the 'Bazball' era, but there is still plenty to play for before they return home after a long tour.

Bairstow's 100th Test milestone will be celebrated through the week and by the looks of it, the England cricketers are enjoying in this scenic town with the cold weather adding to their comfort.

The right-hander has been well below par in the series and would be aiming to make his 100th Test outing an unforgettable one by regaining his lost form.

England fans have also arrived here in big numbers, giving the players another reason to come up with a special performance.

"I don't think that anyone is thinking like that," Ben Stokes said on Tuesday when asked if players are already thinking about returning home.

"We feel every opportunity to play for England is special. That's just our mentality and our mindset, regardless of where you are, or how long you've been away. But that shouldn't take away from the fact that this place is pretty special," the skipper told the travelling British media.

England, who went with only one specialist pacer at the start of the series and had two of them featuring in the last game, can field as many as three here.

Uncapped Gus Atkinson is in the mix and could play alongside James Anderson and Mark Wood, who is likely to replace Ollie Robinson.

Shoaib Bashir, who is nursing a sore spinning finger, and Tom Hartley, have come of age in their debut series and will be the two specialist spinners.

Squads

India: Rohit Sharma (C), Jasprit Bumrah (VC), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan, Dhruv Jurel (WK), KS Bharat (WK), Devdutt Padikkal, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Akash Deep.

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England: Ben Stokes (C), James Anderson, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Shoaib Bashir, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes (Wk), Dan Lawrence, Tom Hartley, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Mark Wood.

Match starts 9.30 am IST.

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