The first two Tests have given us some riveting contests so far, with the superstars of both sides, faced with some real battles, bringing their talents to the fore. The likes of Virat Kohli, R Ashwin, Joe Root and James Anderson will want to produce match-winning performances in the third Test match in Mohali as well and so here are a few of the key clashes to look forward to in this Test match.
Alastair Cook vs Mohammed Shami: There was Kohli's tremendous century and even better half-century, Ashwin's five-for and even Jayant Yadav's outstanding debut, but what really sticks out in the memory from that second Test match is that dismissal of Alastair Cook in the first innings from Mohammed Shami. The perfect ball – seam upright, angled away, but then moving in after pitching to take the top of off-stump, with this time, that off-stump being broken in half.
Cook is so important to England – his wicket off the last ball of the fourth day proved a turning point – because if the captain scores runs, his team invariably move into a safe position. Win the toss or not, Cook needs to deliver for England again. Trying to stop the left-hander from getting settled will be Shami, who has made an outstanding return from a long-term injury. Shami's ability to move the ball both ways and to hurry the batsman with his extra pace will be vital, and Kohli will bank on his premier fast bowler to deliver the crucial wicket of the England skipper.
Joe Root vs R Ashwin: Ashwin likes to target the best batsman of the opposing team. However, so far Ashwin has dismissed Root only once in four innings, albeit a wonderful dismissal, when he beat the batsman in the flight. Root, like Cook, is England's he-scores-runs-and-we-are-safe batsman, and the quicker he is out the better it is for India. Ashwin will want to show the right-hander why he is currently the No.1 ranked Test bowler in the world, while Root will be keen to get on top of the off-spinner to negate his threat and set the tone for the rest of the Test match.
Virat Kohli vs James Anderson: We all know what happened in 2014, and it was no surprise when Anderson tried the outside off stump line in the first innings of the second Test to Kohli. That line had to change a little in the second innings owing to the pitch conditions, but expect the India captain to be tested outside off in Mohali.
The quantum of this contest will depend on when Kohli ends up coming and what the condition of the ball is – if it is new, Anderson will be dangerous and if it is old and reversing, he will be a difficult proposition – but the manner in which the India skipper has been playing in this series, he will back himself to pass the Anderson test, no matter what.
Jayant Yadav vs Ben Stokes: Apart from the Shami delivery to dismiss Cook, the other great ball of the second Test was from Jayant, which got Stokes out in the second innings – the dream off-spinner's delivery that drifted in and just moved away enough to beat the bat and take the off-stump. When Stokes comes into the crease, expect Kohli to give Jayant a bowl to see if the spinner can get him again. Also interesting to watch will be how well Jayant bats – he put in two commendable knocks in his debut Test – and if Stokes, if he gets a bowl during that time, showers the India man with a bit of the short stuff.
Parthiv Patel vs International cricket and Jos Buttler vs Test cricket: Two wicketkeepers making a comeback – although Buttler is expected to just play as a pure batsman – and two players desperate to prove themselves in this arena. Buttler is expected to come back into the playing XI for Ben Duckett, but how he handles the spinners will be interesting to see. Parthiv will know the pressure is on him to show the selectors made the right decision in picking him over the dynamic Rishabh Pant – so runs and a competent time behind the stumps will be essential.