Rana Malook previews England's final test match in Nagpur.
Alistair Cook displayed wisdom beyond his years as he calmly waved away any suggestions that the series was all but over. Despite convincingly leading England to two successive victories and being on the cusp of a historic series win in India, the England captain remained focused on the task ahead, a win in Nagpur. He has good cause for caution.
At the end of the first test, talks of a white wash for England seemed plausible at the time. Then along came KP in the second test and obliterated those claims. Despite another convincing victory thanks to a Cook "daddy hundred" in the third test, it's important to note that India have their own match winners, even if they haven't quite all turned up yet.
This was never more evident than in India's second innings in the last test. After Sehwag and Gambhir had got India of to a to a flier with a partnership of 86, the middle order collapsed from 86-0 to 122-6 in barely 17 overs. It was the sort of collapse associated with a visiting side not the hosts, and England were on their way to going 2-1 up in the series.
Still there is much to play for and Flower and Cook are very aware of the possibility that they may well turn up in Nagpur, because that's what world class players do, and there certainly is no shortage of them in the Indian side.
Tendulkar showed glimpses of his fading genius with a gritty 70 odd, Ashwin demonstrated why he is the best Test number 8 in world cricket, Pujara may still have a say in the series, and Kohli has been ever so quiet thus far. Whats more, MS Dhoni might just contribute if it takes his fancy. Criticisms of him looking disinterested will no doubt spur him on to get some runs and avoid yet another defeat.
Despite fantastic all round contribution from England, its fair to say that their premier batsman have applied the kind of shock and awe tactics which flattened the opposition allowing for two solid victories. Thus Cook, Pietersen and Prior remain the key players for England, and it'd be interesting to see how England cope if these three don't fire.
Seasoned cricket observers will applaud Cook's reservations. However the odds are firmly stacked against India. Only time will tell whether the changes they've made to their side for the final test will yield success. England on the basis of their recent performances and the way they've turned this test series around deserve to win it. But if history in cricket or any other sport has taught us anything, deserve's got nothing to do with it.
This is just another test match and both sides are capable of winning it. One thing is for sure, in yet another gripping series of test match cricket the final act is likely to be the most thrilling.
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