Before the start of the series, England’s best chance of winning a Test in India was the day-night Test in Ahmedabad. The fact that England go there with the series level at 1-1 has changed the dynamics in quite a big way.
England know this could be the series-defining Test and their opportunity to do what India did in Australia. On the other hand, India’s chances of earning a World Test Championship final spot are just a little bit in jeopardy. If they lose this Test (or the next), they will be out of the race.
India, though, are expected to stick to their blueprint at home, which is to score big in the first innings and back the bowlers to take 20 wickets. While it may not look like their batsmen have dominated so far, each of India’s top six has got at least one 50-plus score in the series. What India would want them to do is to convert those starts into big, match-winning knocks as Rohit Sharma did in the second Test.
Another thing in India’s favour is that they will field their strongest bowling attack of the series so far. After a break of one Test, Jasprit Bumrah is back in the squad and will lead the pace attack alongside Ishant Sharma, with R Ashwin and Axar Patel manning the spin department. Then they have the option of playing one of Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj as the fifth bowler, or, possibly, even Hardik Pandya.
For England, Jonny Bairstow‘s availability will somewhat reduce the burden on Joe Root, while a returning James Anderson will buoy them further. Anderson was rested for the second Test, which became a talking point given the six-day gap between the second and the third Tests. England, however, stuck to their rotation policy and now have a fresh Anderson at their disposal.
While the jury is out on where Anderson ranks among the best fast bowlers to tour India, there is little doubt about his mastery with Dukes balls. And three days out from the Test, Anderson did say the SG pink ball “feels very similar to the Dukes in the hand”. It was Anderson’s spell on the fifth day that punctured India’s hopes of drawing the first Test and England will be hoping for a similar performance from their seamer.
Seeing the assistance their seamers got with the pink ball under lights during practice sessions, the visitors may be tempted to even field three specialist seamers. But they must keep in mind the actual pitch may turn out to be vastly different from the practice tracks.
India WLWDW (Last five Tests, most recent first)
Preview: Do England have the upper hand in the pink-ball Test?
In the spotlight
The twilight. If the pink-ball Tests are a lottery, then twilight is the time when they are won or lost, with batsmen trying to adjust to the artificial light. So far, it has been observed that the pink ball swings and seams more under lights than otherwise. But will it behave the same even if there is hardly any grass on the pitch and dew in the outfield?
Virat Kohli may not have scored an international hundred for a while now but given his form one doesn’t seem far away. Before leaving Australia for paternity leave, Kohli scored a masterly 74 in the first innings of the day-night Adelaide Test. He looked in absolute control during his 72 on the fifth day of the first Test of the current series, and his 62 on a rank turner in the second innings of the second Test helped India shut the door on England. Kohli would know it’s time to take it one notch higher.
Bumrah’s return means the only decision India need to make is about their fifth bowler. Given the pink ball and the dew factor, India may go with three seamers and two spinners. In that case, Kuldeep is likely to miss out, leaving Siraj and Umesh contesting for the lone slot.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk), 7 R Ashwin, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Apart from Anderson, Archer and Bairstow walking into the XI, England could consider going in with just one spinner in Jack Leach. But Root said they would make the final decision after the final practice session. Zak Crawley, meanwhile, could replace Rory Burns at the top of the order.
England (probable): 1 Dom Sibley, 2 Zak Crawley, 3 Jonny Bairstow, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Ollie Pope, 7 Ben Foakes (wk), 8 Dom Bess/Chris Woakes, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Jack Leach, 11 James Anderson
Pitch and conditions
The Motera pitch does have some live grass, so while spinners will come into play later in the Test, one cannot discount the impact of the new ball and the quick bowlers, especially under lights. The refurbished stadium boasts a capacity of 110,000 spectators but given the Covid-19 concerns, only half of those seats are going to be filled. The weather forecast is sunny throughout the Test, with the temperature hovering around 35-degree Celsius during the day and dropping by ten degrees in the evenings.
Stats and trivia
- Kohli’s last international hundred was against Bangladesh at Eden Gardens in 2019, in what was India’s first-ever day-night Test. Since then, he has played 34 innings without scoring a century – his longest barren streak in international cricket.
- This will be Ishant’s 100th Test. Among Indian fast bowlers, only Kapil Dev has played more Tests (131).
- In the 15 pink-ball Tests so far, fast bowlers have picked up 354 wickets at an average of 24.47, and spinners 115 at 35.38.
- Coincidentally, the last Test Motera hosted was also between India and England, in 2012. In that game, Cheteshwar Pujara struck 206 not out and 41 not out as India beat England by nine wickets.
- With 26 wins from 48 Tests, Root is level with Michael Vaughan for the most Test victories as an England captain.
“You can’t play for those kinds of reasons. We are not looking to win one and draw one. We are looking to win both. For us, these are two games of cricket, and the only thing we are focused on. What it does afterwards is a conversation for later. That is a reality not present right now. In the present moment, we are preparing for tomorrow, ready for the grind for five days, wanting to win a Test match for India and then move on to the next one. One day at a time is something we have followed for years now. There is no point running far ahead into the future where you have no idea what’s going to happen. We are going to focus on what we can do as individuals in the present moment and let other people think of scenarios and what if and what if not.”
Virat Kohli is not thinking about the WTC final just yet
“There has been a trend of collapses in pink-ball Test matches. One thing that stands out is those vital first 20 balls, making sure you get used to tracking the ball, get used to the conditions and being very aware of how things can change throughout the day. It’s not necessarily just that one moment under lights or that twilight period. Sometimes it’s been right at the start of the game in the morning session, or late on day four, that these strange passages of play have happened. When you get that opportunity, and you’re on the right side of it in the field, you have to take every opportunity and really make that count in your favour.”
Joe Root in response to England being bundled for 58 and India for 36 in their last pink-ball Tests
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
WI vs SL – Visa-related problems delay Dasun Shanaka’s departure for the Caribbean
Sri Lanka’s new T20I captain might be forced to miss at least a part of the series against West Indies
A delay in processing his transit visa to the United States of America has meant that Sri Lanka’s new T20I captain Dasun Shanaka was unable to leave for the Caribbean with the remainder of the squad on Monday.
Shanaka did have a proper US transit visa – valid for five years – on a previous passport. But as he had lost the passport containing that visa two years ago, visa officers for the US have told him they must do additional checks, meaning they were not able to greenlight the visa for this tour in time for him to make the flight.
“I’d lost that passport two years ago, so I think they need to check whether anyone has used that lost passport and visa to travel in the time since,” Shanaka told ESPNcricinfo. “And there was also a delay in my submitting my visa application this time, because the team had to isolate after Thiri aiya (Lahiru Thirimanne) tested positive for Covid-19. I missed my initial appointment and had to take a later appointment.”
Although the wording of a Sri Lanka Cricket release suggests Shanaka did not make the flight because he had lost his passport recently, Shanaka himself suggested the delay was largely unavoidable. In any case, it is hoped that he receives his US visa over the next few days, and could potentially fly out to the West Indies as early as Friday.
However, even if he arrives in Antigua – where Sri Lanka play their T20I series – ahead of March 3, when the first game is scheduled, it is not clear if he will be available to play, as he will need to undergo quarantine.
Shanaka was named Sri Lanka’s T20I captain on Monday, with a view to him leading the side in the T20 World Cup later this year. But it is now possible he will miss part of his first assignment as the permanent leader [he had been stand-in captain for one previous series].
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
Recent Match Report – NZ Women vs ENG Women 1st ODI 2020/21
Tash Farrant stars in first ODI for seven years, but NZ lose tenth match in a row
England Women 181 for 2 (Beaumont 71, Knight 67*) beat New Zealand Women 178 (Jensen 53, Halliday 50) by eight wickets
Tammy Beaumont and Heather Knight produced a pair of fluent half-centuries at Hagley Oval, as England Women marked their first ODI in 437 days with a comprehensive eight-wicket victory over New Zealand.
Had it not been for the Covid outbreak, England’s defence of their 2017 World Cup title would have been well underway by now, but instead Knight’s team showed they have learned the lessons of a somewhat rusty loss in their final warm-up in Queenstown last week to reassert their credentials, and inflict on New Zealand a tenth consecutive ODI defeat – the worst losing streak in their history.
In a one-sided contest, New Zealand chose to bat first but were rolled aside for 178 in 45.1 overs, with Hayley Jensen’s 53 from 58 balls at the top of the order being matched by an eye-catching 50 from 54 from the debutant Brooke Halliday at No. 7.
Besides those contributions, however, there was very little substance to New Zealand’s innings, which was perhaps most notable for the return of Tash Farrant to England’s ODI line-up for her second 50-over appearance, almost seven-and-a-half years after her debut against West Indies in November 2013.
Sharing the new ball with Katherine Brunt, Farrant impressed with figures of 2 for 31 in seven overs, with her early dismissal of Amy Satterthwaite for 3 undermining New Zealand’s hopes of a competitive total. Farrant then returned to extract Lea Tahuhu for 8 late in New Zealand’s innings.
Heather Knight’s classy 67 not-out helps England ease past New Zealand
England’s wickets were shared around among their seven bowlers – a testament to how insubstantial New Zealand’s partnerships proved to be. Sophie Ecclestone was the only bowler to complete her full allocation, as she reached 100 international wickets with her haul of 2 for 31 in ten overs of left-arm spin.
New Zealand’s reliance on the likes of Satterthwaite, Sophie Devine and Amelia Kerr meant that their cheap dismissals, inside the first 27 overs of the innings, left the rest of the order caught in two mindsets as they attempted to chisel a decent score.
Katey Martin dug in for 14 from 35 balls before falling victim to Knight, as no player besides the two half-centurions mustered more than Devine’s 16.
England’s reply was brisk and to the point. Danni Wyatt fell in the eighth over, but not before 42 runs were on the board, while Beaumont had struck 11 fours in her innings of 71 before succumbing to Tahuhu, who appeared to compound New Zealand’s concerns when she limped off with a hamstring injury late in the game.
Knight and Natalie Sciver then swept England to victory with few further alarms. New Zealand’s one saving grace was a competitive debut for their 16-year-old left-arm spinner Fran Jonas, who was not flattered by her maiden figures of 0 for 31 in five overs.
“We probably had a bit of a wake-up call against New Zealand XI last week,” Beaumont said. “We needed to tighten up in some areas and certainly the bowlers came out and showed that today. Every single one of them bowled exceptionally well to keep New Zealand to 180, so they really impressed today.”
Aus women vs NZ 2021-22
Ellyse Perry, Meg Lanning, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen and Megan Schutt are the core of one of the greatest Australian Women’s sides yet to take the field. Their quality has helped the national team to victories at each of the past two T20 World Cups and dominant runs of victories in bilateral series, in addition to their pioneering place in the game’s vault into full-time professionalism in Australia.
While this generation remains a lauded bunch still vital to the team’s fortunes, the national selector Shawn Flegler is having to plan for the days when they begin to sidle off into retirement, either one by one – as he would no doubt prefer – or as a group leaving an enormous hole. The delay in the next ODI World Cup, meant to have been played in New Zealand presently but postponed by a year ostensibly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, means it is a younger squad going across the Tasman for a series against New Zealand.
This is partly to add to the options Australia have available this time next year, notably the re-addition of Tayla Vlaeminck after she missed the 2020 T20 World Cup on home soil with serious injury, but it is also part of the bigger-picture plans to keep “topping up” the Australian XI with fresh generations, much as Sophie Molineux, Georgia Wareham, and Annabel Sutherland have emerged as regulars over the past couple of years.
“We’ve got an amazing team right now. It’s a strong team, we’ve been able to introduce some young players over the last couple of years in Annabel and Sophie and Georgia, Tahlia McGrath’s had a couple of games here and there as well,” Flegler said. “But you’ve got to keep evolving as a team, you can’t sit still; the competition from around the world is going to keep getting stronger.
“You saw that Indian side with a few of their young players like Shafali Verma, a 16-year-old, so they’re getting international experience and it’s important our best young players get that experience where possible as well.
“That’s the challenge over the next few years, we’ve got some of the best players in the history of Australian cricket playing right now, but at some point the end comes for everyone, so we need to make sure that team keeps evolving and keeps getting stronger.”
“You watch her bowl, it’s exciting, but she’s on the edge the whole time. We want to make sure she’s still bowling for Australia in 10 years hopefully”
Flegler on young pacer Tayla Vlaeminck
That wider focus goes some way to explaining why the likes of Sammy-Jo Johnson, Erin Burns, Molly Strano, Heather Graham and Elyse Villani are missing from the ranks as well as they have played in recent editions of the WBBL. Instead, Darcie Brown, Hannah Darlington are set to experience their first international games, while Sutherland can expect graduating levels of exposure as a batting allrounder who was encouraged wherever possible to go on the attack with the Melbourne Stars.
“Darcie had an outstanding WBBL, a fast bowler, bowling outswing at 17, nearly 18 years of age, an exciting prospect, I’ve seen her since she was 13 or 14, first saw her at the Under-15 national championship,” Flegler said. “So, she’s always had that ball speed within her, she’s improved her accuracy over the last 12 months, but really exciting prospect and I’m sure she’ll enjoy the opportunity over there.
“Hannah has been involved in the pathway all the way through as well, change-up in pace, that sort of closing death bowler option. With Delissa [Kimmince] unavailable for selection, we thought Hannah would be a great addition, particularly for the T20Is, that’s the focus for Hannah. The bonus is with her leadership qualities as well, I’ve seen that in the pathway, she’s captained NSW Metro and has been selected as vice-captain for NSW – I don’t think they’re particularly happy with me selecting her for this tour, but a great opportunity.”
Vlaeminck’s return allows Australia to look again to the sorts of plans they had before the T20 World Cup, namely to use her express pace in the way that Perry’s was once harnessed, in balance with the swing of Schutt and the spin of Jonassen, Wareham and Molineux. “For someone like Tayla, who 12 months ago when she got that injury, you would’ve thought the World Cup was out of the question for her, but now we’re 12 months out from the World Cup, she has the opportunity to go over to New Zealand and test her skills over there,” Flegler said.
“It’s another 12 months into playing Darcie and Annabel, even Georgia and Sophie Molineux, another 12 months of international cricket is great for those players, so while it was disappointing, to have this opportunity to go over there and play some games in those conditions 12 months out from a World Cup is an absolute bonus, whereas we wouldn’t have been doing that if the World Cup was on right now. So, [it is] a great opportunity.
“I can’t imagine we’ll be able to play Tayla in all the matches, she’s coming back from a big injury and we’re still managing her workloads. It’s really important we see her as a really long-term player for Australia and she’s a high-risk athlete. You watch her bowl, it’s exciting, but she’s on the edge the whole time. We want to make sure she’s still bowling for Australia in 10 years hopefully, so we need to look after her, make sure she gets through this series.”
Australia ODI and T20I squad: Meg Lanning (capt), Rachael Haynes, Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy (wk), Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham, Belinda Vakarewa, Tayla Vlaeminck
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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