The newly-built stadium in Motera, built with Australian expertise in design and costing Rs.800 crore in all, gave a new twist to pink ball Test cricket with spinners bucking the trend and dominating unlike the previous pink ball Tests where seamers have held sway and took more than three times the wickets taken by spinners.
Before this Test, 354 wickets (at 24.47 runs per wicket) had been taken by pace bowlers in 15 day-night Tests. As against that, spinners had taken 115 wickets (at 35.38 runs per wicket).
On Wednesday, however, India’s seamers bowled just 11 bowlers picking one wicket while the spinners took nine scalps, bowling 37.4 overs on a surface that has less grass than is usually required for pink ball Test.
Left-arm spinner Axar Patel (6/38) and off-spinner R Ashwin (3/26) shared nine wickets as England struggled, partly because of the pitch that began to help spin early and partly because of their inability to play spin and stay confused.
When contacted, Damian Hough, the chief curator of Adelaide Oval, the venue that has hosted most day-night games — five — refused to comment, saying he prefers to avoid commenting “out of respect to other curators and given the many variables between different pitches, conditions etc.”
At 74 for two, with one of the wickets picked early in the third over by pace bowler Ishant Sharma, it looked that England had weathered the storm.
However, captain Joe Root’s dismissal, trapped leg-before to a ball that straightened as Ashwin came from round the wicket, started the rot.
England lost the next eight wickets for 38 runs. Batsmen like Jonny Bairstow – he was dismissed early as the second wicket — and Ben Stokes missed the line to balls that didn’t turn much. Olly Pope was beaten on the outside edge.
There had been talks of how pace bowlers will dominate this Test with the India skipper Virat Kohli on Tuesday saying that despite the spin-friendly wicket, there will be help for the pace bowlers due to the pink ball.
The pitch for a pink ball Test normally has some amount of grass cover to ensure that the ball doesn’t lose shine quickly. But ahead of this match, the grass was shaved off gradually over four days to reveal a pretty bald look.
India opener Rohit Sharma had, in the lead up to this Test, had said: “It’s still early days to talk about the pitch but I don’t see anything changing in the pitch [from] what we played in the second Test match. It is going be more or less on the same page. It’s going to turn as well.”