Third Test preview: India v England

After all the drama surrounding the preparation of the Eden Gardens wicket ahead of the third Test, it will be a relief to finally get some actual cricket on the go in Kolkata on Wednesday.

After all the drama surrounding the preparation of the Eden Gardens wicket ahead of the third Test, it will be a relief to finally get some actual cricket on the go in Kolkata on Wednesday.

The series is level at 1-1, with neither victory a close one. India won by nine wickets in Ahmedabad, and then England demolished the hosts by 10 wickets in Mumbai. This match, according to the 83-year-old curator, will be a more even contest.

India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni asked the groundsmen to make sure the pitch is a slow turner, but what he'll get is a faster, bouncier track, similar to the one that saw Monty Panesar take 11 wickets in Mumbai.

So which spin duo will come out on top in this instance? Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin didn't have a great time of it in the second Test, and will be eager to show Panesar and Graeme Swann that they are, in fact, the best tweaking twins on the planet.

England then also have a fast bowling conundrum to deal with, though some might not consider it much of a puzzle at all: Drop Stuart Broad, who has been well below par in the series, and put fit-again Steve Finn alongside James Anderson. But Broad is the ECB's golden child, so whether he'll actually be dropped remains to be seen.

India have to decide whether they'll go with three spinners, like they did in Mumbai when Harbhajan Singh joined Ojha and Ashwin, or drop Singh in favour of a seamer. As it stands, Zaheer Khan is the only in-form fast bowler in the side, and Umesh Yadav is injured, so it will probably be Ishant Sharma who plays.

Batting-wise, Ian Bell is back for England after a quick trip home for the birth of his son, and he will be eager to make up for the absolute brain-freeze of a shot he played in the first Test. Jonny Bairstow looks set to be dropped to make way for Bell, while Samit Patel should retain his place.

India will stick with Sachin Tendulkar in the line-up, as dropping him would be tantamount to sacrilege, so the top order will remain as it did in the previous matches. Cheteshwar Pujara has taken some of the pressure off Virat Kohli to get the big runs, while openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag have found a bit of form after a poor 2012.

<b>Key Men</b><br><i>India:</i> England have had a tough time getting rid of number three <b>Cheteshwar Pujara</b>, the Dravid-like batsman who defied them for 1016 minutes over two Tests before going out.

He already has a double ton and a century to his name in this series, and India will need him to come good again if his colleagues fail. He is solid, calm and technical, while still playing sexy shots, and another ton could see his name cemented in the line-up.

<i>England:</i> The fitness of <b>Steven Finn</b> has been a talking point before each game, and now that he seems to be fit, he could prove the difference between the sides. He is much faster than Broad these days, and gets good bounce, so he will trouble the Indians who prefer slower bowling.

He could also be a danger to the older batsmen, like the Little Master, whose reflexes are not what they were. Anderson needs a pace partner who can take a few wickets as he is the only one who has so far, and even then it's only two in two games.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2012: Second Test: England won by 10 wickets in Mumbai<br>2012: First Test: India won by nine wickets in Ahmedabad<br>2011: Fourth Test: England won by an innings and eight runs at The Oval<br>2011: Third Test England won by an innings and 242 runs in Birmingham<br>.2011: Second Test: England won by 319 runs in Nottingham

<b>Prediction</b><br>Online betting firm <a href='' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Sky Bet</b></a> has India at 11/10 and England at 5/2 in the odds to win the third Test. Visit Sky Bet for the latest <a href='' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>cricket betting</b></a>.

More <a href='http://' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>cricket bets here.</b></a>

<b>Probable Teams</b><br><i>India:</i> Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain, wicketkeeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha.

<i>England:</i> Alastair Cook (captain), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Matt Prior (wicketkeeper), Samit Patel, Monty Panesar, Graeme Swann, Steven Finn, James Anderson.

<b>Dates:</b> 5-9 December<br><b>Morning session:</b> 09:00 – 11:00 (03:30 – 05:30 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 11:40 – 13:40 (06:10 – 08:10 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 14:00 – 16:00 (08:30 – 10:30 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Rod Tucker and Kumar Dharmasena<br><B>Third umpire:</B> Local appointment<BR><b>Match referee:</b> Jeff Crowe

<b>Lindsay du Plessis</b>