India vs England 3rd Test Preview: Pink ball, 110,000 capacity stadium, pitch, dew and WTC final in focus with series poised at 1-1
There are a number of variables at play as India and England gear up to grapple for dominance in the day-night pink-ball test in Ahmedabad at the Sardar Patel Stadium which now has the highest seating capacity in the cricketing world.
A grand occasion deserves a grand venue
The Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad has not hosted an international game since 2014. The world-class facility is now ready to see some action, and action it will see with the 3rd test match of the four-match series between India and England.
The refurbished stadium now holds a maximum of 110,000 spectators but there will be a cut off of 50% due to COVID-19. Still, with all the tickets sold for the day-night test, a crowd of 55,000 will be present at the stadium. With the match being played with the pink ball, under lights and between two of the leading test playing nations, it will be a spectacle to behold.
Not a great record for either team
This is the second time that India is hosting a day night test match after they emerged victorious in India's maiden day night test match at the Eden Gardens against Bangladesh. The team then had a collapse of gargantuan proportions in their first pink ball test away from home which came against Australia at Adelaide.
Likewise, England do not boast of a great record with the pink ball in test cricket either, winning one and losing two out of their three day night fixtures.
And then, there's the pitch
The pitch has been a point of contention in the first two matches of the series. While the first one in Chennai was akin to a road for the first two days, which gave England - the team winning the toss - an unfair advantage, the one in the second test match at the same venue saw the ball turn square from ball one, which was not ideal either.
With Indian vice-captain Rohit Sharma not mincing words about India ready to squeeze the most out of the home advantage, another turner is expected. However, it would not be possible for the curator at Motera to offer a bare pitch with a loose top surface as it will take a toll on the pink ball.
Six millimetres of grass was left on the surface when India hosted its first pink ball test match at the Eden Gardens. While that much grass is not expected this time around, there will have to be a minimum covering of grass to prevent the pink ball from getting discoloured. Hence, while the pitch is expected to spin, it will be hard and will offer even bounce.
Pink ball's characteristics
As opposed to the red ball, in which the leather is dyed, the pink ball is made up of multiple layers of pigment to allow these coatings to last longer. The ball is then covered in an extra layer of lacquer to allow it to be shiny for longer. This, in turn, means that the shine on the ball lasts longer and the ball does more of the surface and in the air.
While this may be a mouth-watering prospect for the England pacers, there is heavy dew expected in the last session, which might nullify the swing.
Anderson, Bumrah walk in
Coming to the team changes, England are likely to bring in Jonny Bairstow at number 3 in place of Dan Lawrence. With Rory Burns having not contributed for a long time, the now-fit Zak Crawley can replace him at the top of the order.
England would want both Stuart Broad and James Anderson to play in a four-prong pace attack, but with Stone or Archer set to provide them the tearaway option, it then makes for a very long tail, which is why Chris Woakes is in with a chance of playing ahead of Stuart Broad.
With Moeen Ali having flown back home and England not showing a lot of faith in Dom Bess, they are expected to go in with just one spinner in Jack Leach, with Joe Root filling in as the second spinner.
England will have to win both the remaining test matches to qualify for the WTC final while one more loss will rule out India.
The home side is likely to bring in Umesh Yadav or Hardik Pandya in place of Kuldeep Yadav. Jasprit Bumrah will return in place of Mohammed Siraj.
Here are the probable playing XIs:
India - Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav/Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah
England - Zak Crawley/Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Ben Foakes (wk), Chris Woakes/Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, Olly Stone/Jofra Archer, James Anderson
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