Deadline: Feb 24, 02:30 PM IST
Venue: Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad
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We couldn’t distinguish between the pitch and the outfield when the first pictures of the ground were released last week. It was lush green—much like the ones we see in England or New Zealand. After what happened at Chennai last week, England must have heaved a sigh. The relief, however, did not last long. The pitch now looks dry with only a handful of green patches trying to sustain. It has as many as 11 clay layers: 5 made of black soil and 6 of red. To put things into context, we will know its true nature only until we see live action. If it helps, the pink ball usually moves a lot at twilight—the moment pacers eagerly wait for.
Of the three innings Virat Kohli has batted against the pink ball, he has failed only once and it came during the infamous 36 all out last December. Before that, he had scores of 74 and 136, and is the only Indian to score a hundred in day-night Tests.
Joe Root too has a phenomenal record, having scored 263 runs in three Tests including a hundred and two fifties. Given his recent form, there are hardly any chinks in his armoury that the home team can exploit, and he has dominated every Indian bowler.
All fantasy players’ eyes will be on R Ashwin. He was already doing an incredible job with the ball, but his hundred on a dusty wicket at Chepauk put the English batsmen to shame. In 2021, he has already saved a Test match for India with his unbeaten 39 at Sydney and then won India a Test to level the series at Chennai. In the ongoing series, he has taken 17 wickets at 17.8 comprising two five-wicket hauls.
Rohit Sharma does not like to rate his hundreds, but his knock at Chepauk was his finest in the longest format. It wasn’t easy to survive, let alone scoring runs. However, Rohit fetched his 161 runs at a strike rate of 70. He is Rohit, after all: he makes everything look easy, no matter how hard it is.
James Anderson’s 3 for 17 on the final day of the first Test sealed the win for England. To make matters worse for India, the conditions at Motera cannot be friendlier for Anderson. He has taken 14 wickets in 3 pink-ball Tests.
Jack Leach may have conceded runs at 3.26, but he has been at least able to take wickets at regular intervals. He has dismissed Rohit Sharma thrice in four innings.
Axar Patel was dead accurate. He rarely bowled bad deliveries, keeping the English batsmen on their toes all the time. Given his height, he is likely to exploit the extra bounce the pink ball generates. He finished with 7 wickets in his maiden Test.
In the only day-night Test Ishant Sharma played, he ended with match figures of 9 for 78. It will be a special occasion for him playing this match at the world’s biggest cricket stadium, for it will be his 100th Test. Alongside him, making India’s pace attack a force to reckon with, will be Jasprit Bumrah, the No. 8 bowler in ICC Test Rankings.
Rishabh Pant has scored a fifty in four consecutive Tests, and now ranks No. 11 in ICC Test Rankings for batsmen—even ahead Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane/Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant (wk), R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Siraj/Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah
England: Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Ben Foakes (wk), Dom Bess/Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, Jofra Archer, James Anderson