Depleted India out to gatecrash Stokes's 100th test party

Depleted India out to gatecrash Stokes's 100th test party


India have not lost a test series on home soil since 2012

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RAJKOT, India (Reuters) - A severely depleted India will do everything they can to try and deny England captain Ben Stokes a victory in his 100th test when the teams clash in the third match of the five-test series in Rajkot on Thursday.

India have not lost a test series on home soil since 2012 but that record is under threat after batting stalwart Virat Kohli was ruled out of the series for personal reasons, while frontline seamer Mohammed Shami is also unavailable through injury.

Compounding their crisis, batter KL Rahul and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja sustained injuries in Hyderabad, where England registered a thrilling victory to go 1-0 up in the series.

The duo missed the second test in Visakhapatnam, where India levelled the series, and while Rahul continues his spell on the sidelines, Jadeja will reunite with Ravichandran Ashwin in India's spin attack in Rajkot.

Off-spinner Ashwin is one strike away from 500 test wickets.

Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav are vying for the third spinner's role, while Sarfaraz Khan and Devdutt Padikkal will fancy their test debut on Thursday.

"In the past, it wasn't easy for other teams that come here and play in these conditions," Jadeja said of England's fearless approach under Stokes.

"England have a style of playing aggressively. They connect sometimes, sometimes not. But that's their style. We have to think of our plan B."

For the first time in the series, England will be playing two seamers with Mark Wood, replacing Shoaib Bashir, joining James Anderson in the only change to their squad.

"Taking a bit of knowledge from the last test match we played here, albeit a long time ago, it was a pretty true, flat wicket," Stokes said.

"Bringing in an extra seamer this week is the option we've gone with because we think it's going to give us the best chance of winning."

A victory in Rajkot would be a fitting gift by England to their talismanic captain in his 100th test but Stokes was not focused on personal milestones.

"Every test is just as important as the next one," Stokes told British media ahead of the match.

"Then there's the next one, which will be 101 - it's just one more.

"It's a sign of longevity, but 99, 100 or 101 doesn't make much difference."