Aafter one win each in the series and with two to go, the third test between India and England at the large Motera stadium in Ahmedabad would be a blockbuster affair regardless of the day-night element. Both teams have served a treat so far, in keeping with what appears to be a wider golden period for trial cricket.
But in addition to a more enjoyable 9am start time for UK viewers, the pink ball and the prospect of lit cricket in white brings an added thrill of excitement and intrigue. Fast bowlers, we’re told, are licking their lips, as batsmen enter the 110,000-capacity arena – perhaps half full – knowing that sooner their eyes will adjust to the cherry flash. rushing towards them at speeds of up to 95 mph, the best.
There have been 30 day-night tests since the first one in 2015 and, barring a draw, all kinds of scenarios have unfolded. Australia amassed a whopping 539 for three declared against Pakistan at the end of 2019, the highest of nine totals of over 400 and propelled by David Warner’s unbeaten 335, yet eight teams also found themselves skittled for less than 130.
The most terrible of these eruptions belong to India – and England too – and occurred in their most recent outings against the Pink Ball. Joe Root’s men were sprayed on by New Zealanders Trent Boult and Tim Southee to finish 58 in 2018 – after turning 29 for nine at one point – and had the sandpaper affair in Cape Town to thank for diverting attention elsewhere; Virat Kohli’s side were drawn 36 in all games by Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in Adelaide last December.
“Except for those 45 minutes of bad cricket, we dominated the test match,” Kohli insisted on Tuesday at the pre-match press conference. He wasn’t wrong, with Australia’s final eight-wicket victory summing up the potential danger on offer here and, looking back, how the exposed top team can suddenly still find themselves in conflict.
Kohli said that when it comes to bowling, the tactic might be to hold a line during the day and attack in the spotlight, but it should be noted that the double-digit deals of India and England are that occurred before the switch was operated. Much has been said about how the combination of the pink ball and the twilight period can leave drummers struggling, while the evening dew in India could become a factor here as well. But even when the ground is bathed in sunlight, anything is possible.
Another factor is the height. Root noted more live grass than in the first two tests but, after last week’s one-sided match, she was also allowed to go dry for the Indian spinners. Not only does this upset English spirits as they flirt with playing an extra crimper, it could yet provide yet another test for their beaters. Ravichandran Ashwin, for example, is a Swiss Army knife of variants and the pink SG bullet might make them harder to grab.
The dressmakers will be more prominent and the reports of the nets suggest that the swing is on offer. Ishant Sharma, playing his 100th Test, will threaten right-handers with the ball entering, while Jasprit Bumrah will return – likely at the expense of wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav – and his laser yorkers could cause carnage. India are also considering whether to draft Umesh Yadav for Mohammed Siraj, given that the fast and muscular bowler is fit after a calf strain and has 96 wickets at 24 on home soil.
“We have probably the best bowling offense in the world among other teams,” Kohli said. “So we don’t care what the ball might bring to the table differently. We are ready for whatever comes our way. “
England, meanwhile, are playing with as many as five changes – two in first order, three among bowlers – and with 24 hours into the draw Root has given little. A decision on Chris Woakes or Dom Bess at No.8 will dictate the balance of the attack – and could be influenced by Ben Stokes’ lack of overhead so far – while Stuart Broad may be ousted by the return of Jimmy Anderson and Jofra Archer, as well as fears over a long tail.
India’s stick is settled while for England it emerges whether the availability of Zak Crawley, after injury, and Jonny Bairstow, after rest, leads to one or two of the top three. Dan Lawrence is expected to do so, having been slightly embarrassed at No.3, but Rory Burns also invited a debate on his place as the opener through a series of low-key scores.
If only one change is made, it could be that Bairstow, who does not have a central test contract, will be preferred over Crawley, who has one. Root insisted that this difference in status – which once again highlights issues with the current red / white system – won’t be a factor in the deliberations, however, he and head coach Chris Silverwood, interested only in the task at hand.
Root said, “These are headaches that we didn’t have about a year ago. It is a testament to the hard work these guys have done.
The same goes for the series score. England were separated in the last game and India will come back as favorites. But with the day-night format capable of producing game passages that overturn this notion, and the very fashionable quicks, they could still emerge in the pink.