A box of pink balls during a nets session at Edgbaston on August 14, 2017 in Birmingham, England. (Getty Images)
A box of pink balls during a nets session at Edgbaston on August 14, 2017 in Birmingham, England. (Getty Images)

India vs England: Colour code keeps all guessing ahead of Ahmedabad day-night Test

  • The two factors are playing on the Indian team’s mind. Initial images from the ground show a thick grass cover on the pitch, which is normal in Indian conditions to maintain the moisture.
UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2021 09:17 AM IST

At home, it is rare for the Indian cricket team to tread unfamiliar territory. The third Test against England, starting in Ahmedabad on Wednesday, though presents a different scenario. It’s a day-night affair with the pink SG ball at the refurbished Sardar Patel Stadium, which hosts its first international match.

The two factors are playing on the Indian team’s mind. Initial images from the ground show a thick grass cover on the pitch, which is normal in Indian conditions to maintain the moisture. But day-night Tests with the pink ball, which has an extra coat of lacquer to keep the shine intact, are generally played on pitches with grass which can aid movement. At home, India have played only one day-night Test, against Bangladesh in 2019, where all but one wicket went to the pacers.

“We are at a stage where we don’t have enough experience as players (with the pink ball). We have just played one day-night game which with SG ball, the domestic (day-night first-class) games which I have played was with kookaburra ball. It’s difficult to predict whether to keep the grass cover or whether to you can still take it off,” Cheteshwar Pujara, who was part of India’s only home day-night Test at the Eden Gardens, said on Saturday.

“It looks like a decent pitch but it’s very difficult to predict at this stage considering we are playing with the pink ball. Sometimes you expect something and it turns out something else with the pink ball.”

While Pujara reserved his verdict on the pink ball, the England camp is happy it has shown signs of aiding swing. After their capitulation on a Chepauk turner in the second Test in Chennai, which has left the series level at 1-1, conditions that aid swing will delight England’s pace brigade.

“We’ve been bowling with them in the nets—they have swung quite a bit and they’ve lasted longer, which was interesting to see,” said England pacer Mark Wood. “With the ball, as soon as it moves, every one of the bowlers from the past couple of months is dying to get it in their hand. The wickets in the nets have been a bit green and had good pace and carry too. I don’t know if that’s anything to go by or whether it’s a bit of a trick.”

Pujara said though the pacers might get swing, it will even out as the day progresses. “This Test we are not sure how much the ball is going to swing. Early on, it might swing a bit but going forward as the match progresses, it might not swing. But we never know, it’s the pink ball,” he said.

Dew can also be a factor in Ahmedabad. “Maybe looking at the weather there is a possibility there might be a little bit of dew in the last session. Guys have played lot of cricket with the white ball, where in many games you expect dew in the second half. Our bowlers are used to it. As batters we have played so much,” Pujara said.

While India’s first pink-ball Test against Bangladesh ended in an innings win in just over two days, their second day-night Test ended in a disaster in Adelaide. India were shot out for 36 in the second innings, their worst ever score in Tests.

“It was a different ball game in Adelaide. The ball was seaming around. We had one bad session. It was one-and-half hours of poor batting. In the first innings, we were in a dominating position. There we used the kookaburra ball…,” he said.

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