Physically, they were in Chennai. But as was evident on Tuesday, the management of the Indian team began preparation and planning for the third test in Ahmedabad – a pink balloon affair under the lights, which will be played from February 24.
An overview of Indian reserve players’ practice from the TNCA Club balcony confirmed that the team’s attention has shifted to the most important night. Hardik Pandya was hitting the net against the pink ball. After the match, Pandya, along with Pujara, came to Chepauk’s central square to have another pink ball bat relay. It’s a series with a difference.
Conditions at the new Motera will be very different from those in Chennai. The field will be covered with grass, a requirement for the pink ball tests. Ahmedabad has already started to prepare the ground, as Gujarat cricketer Samit Gohel informed.
“The ground has both red soil and black soil locations and as of now decent grass cover is there on both types of locations. Pink-ball needs grass and the grounds are cool. In the recently concluded knockouts for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, although it was a white ball tournament, the pitches performed well. The ball was coming at bat, while the bowlers also had some buy, ”Gohel told The Indian Express.
At the end of February, dew could be a factor. “What happens here, when the dew is strong, the wet ball also becomes heavy. So it stops to swing, conventional or reversed. Spinners also find it difficult to grab the ball. The weather right now is a little hot and humid in the morning, but it is cooler in the evening. Dew could be a factor if it’s heavy, ”Gohel said.
Usually, under domestic conditions, India is unstoppable once it has gained momentum. In 2016, after England finished the first test at Rajkot stronger, the hosts bounced off a turner Vizag to win the second and ended up winning the five-game series 4-0. Spin-punch did the job. But the pink ball tests highlight the fast bowlers. Due to the extra layer of hairspray, the pink ball requires live grass on the surface.
At Adelaide Oval, 11mm grass is the routine. At Eden Gardens, the venue that hosted India’s very first pink ball test in November 2019, curator Sujan Mukherjee left 6mm live grass on the strip. An extra coat of hairspray means more swing. Grass on the ground means lateral movement out of the seam. Then there is the twilight period, when batsmen struggle to pick up the ball.
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England therefore have the freedom to sweep away the defeat and start afresh. Conditions for the third test – the first at the new Motera stadium – are expected to be closer to the Blighty than to the subcontinent. And when the pacers are at the forefront, it becomes a battle of equals.
The stake of the third test is important. India need to win this series 2-1 at least to qualify for the ICC World Testing Championship (WTC) final and whether they can make it, as well as their chances of winning the current series, will depend on their performance. Day and night. Test. The equation will be entirely different, making the turner-induced momentum almost redundant. It’s no wonder, then, that Pandya is apparently on the team’s management radar provided he is fit for bowling.
England’s rhythm attack is world class under favorable conditions. James Anderson and Jofra Archer will return in Game Eleven. Stuart Broad will be there and, in all likelihood, the very impressive Olly Stone as well. To qualify for the WTC Finals, tourists will need to win the series by a 3-1 margin; difficult call given that subcontinental ground is about to return for the fourth test. For England however, the possibilities offered by the next game are good enough to keep the morale in the dressing room at the highest level. For India, the series and its future in WTC rest on the next Test.
Regarding the lineup of the Indian squad, opener Shubham Gill suffered a blow to his left forearm while competing on day three of the second test. He did not show up today and was taken for a precautionary scan. He should be fit for the third test. And team management are hopeful that fast bowler Mohammed Shami, who suffered a broken arm in Adelaide, will become available for selection.