Ashwin and Bairstow gear up for their 100th Tests in India v England finale in Dharamsala

Visitors hope to finish tour on high in fifth match having already lost series

England's Jonny Bairstow will play his 100th Test in Dharamsala against India. Getty Images
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Ravichandran Ashwin and Jonny Bairstow will have contrasting feelings as they prepare for the fifth Test between India and England that begins in Dharamsala on Thursday.

The series finale is the 100th Test for both Ashwin and Bairstow. But while the Indian off-spinner enters the match on a high, having played a crucial role in winning the series in the fourth Test in Ranchi, the out-of-form England middle- order batsman has had questions raised about his spot in the team.

It was Ashwin's five-wicket haul in the second innings in Ranchi that restricted England to 145 after the visitors had taken a first-innings lead.

India secured victory in a tense chase of 192 on a pitch that got increasingly difficult to bat on, underscoring the importance and timing of Ashwin's 5-51.

However, the 37-year-old said he was not particularly excited about the milestone, adding his family was looking forward to it more.

"It does not mean anything to me," Ashwin said in Dharamsala. "It means a lot to my wife and my mom. My daughters are more excited than I am. It's just a number."

The off-spinner had passed the milestone of 500 wickets in the third match of the series that India have now wrapped up 3-1.

He left that match midway to be with his ailing mother before returning to be part of India's victory in Rajkot, acknowledging the strain his career had put on his loved ones.

"Playing Indian cricket for such a long time and being on the road, the kind of sacrifice the family makes is enormous."

Bairstow, on the other hand, has had a forgettable tour, scoring just 170 runs in eight outings. The fifth Test could well turn out to be make or break for Bairstow in red-ball cricket.

The Yorkshire batsman said he will try his best to make his 100th Test a memorable one, even though the series has been lost.

"It means a hell of a lot," said Bairstow. "Every young kid that sets out on a journey playing professional cricket wants to try and play 100 Test matches.

"You look back to 2012 when I made my debut at Lord's, if 12 years later you'd said I'd be playing 100 Test matches, you'd snap your hand off for one but also pinching yourself as well.

"It's great to have my family out here, it's an amazing place to come, they've come to some pretty cool places along the way as well. It's a special occasion for everyone who has been there on the journey."

Bairstow admitted the series has not turned out the way he wanted. Having yet to pass 40 in four Tests in this series, there has been speculation he might be overlooked in the summer with Harry Brook to come back into the England side.

As for whether he can cash in on his landmark appearance in England's final assignment on the tour, Bairstow was optimistic.

"It would be nice," said Bairstow. "Like in every game, you put your best foot forward.

"No matter what it is, I'll be going out there, chewing my gum, puffing my chest out and trying to have a good time with the other 10 blokes out there.

"Whatever the situation is, we'll be going out there with smiles on our faces, like we have done in the whole series."

Weather is likely to play a major role in the match, with temperatures expected to drop to low single digits.

Veteran seamer James Anderson is two short of the 700-wicket mark in Test cricket, and will hope to reach the milestone at the scenic venue where 5,000 England supporters are expected to turn up.

Updated: March 05, 2024, 1:08 PM