1-1, two to play. The series is very nicely poised indeed, and England will fancy their chances in this one.
Only the second-ever day/night Test match to be played in India, this game has the added bonus of a kinder UK start time (9am GMT). If that’s not enough, just imagine Jimmy Anderson zipping it about all over the place under the floodlights of the largest cricket ground in the world.
Most pundits agreed before the start of this series that this Test match would represent England’s best chance of victory. Conditions that favour the quicker men, combined with India’s recent capitulation against the pink ball, do point towards the tourists causing their hosts some problems. Jimmy was superb in the first Test, and he will be raring to go on Wednesday in favourable conditions.
Pink-ball Tests are still pretty new, however, and England’s most recent five-day fixture under the lights didn’t exactly go to plan. Everyone is still working it out, so there are absolutely no guarantees. India’s seamers will be more than a handful for the tourists’ batting order, while a similar pitch to the last one could make all talk of swing bowling rather redundant.
Keeping track of who’s in England’s Test squad these days is tougher than it once was. It’s for all the right reasons, of course, but we’ve seen more changes already during this series than we used to for the entirety of certain tours.
Moeen Ali has left India, whilst two have joined England’s tour: Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood. There is a chance that both could feature, although the depth of the side means that selecting a final playing XI isn’t going to be easy.
The big question, in terms of team selection, is how many seamers will play. The only pink-ball Test to have been played in India to date saw every single wicket fall to seamers, so England may decide that Joe Root’s offies are more than enough as a second spin option.
Jimmy will return to the side barring any injury concerns, but then it gets complicated. With two bowling spots potentially up for grabs, England have the unenviable task of picking from Stuart Broad, Dom Bess, Olly Stone, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, and Mark Wood. Bess and Woakes offer a nice balance by bolstering the batting, while arguments could be made for each of the other four to get the nod.
In the batting department, it looks as though Zak Crawley is fit again, while Bairstow’s excellent performance in Sri Lanka could mean that he slots back in at number 3. The nucleus should remain unaltered, but a bit of fine-tuning may help to give England the edge.
Possible line-up: Sibley, Crawley, Bairstow, Root (c), Stokes, Pope, Foakes (wk), Woakes, Leach, Stone, Anderson
So much focus has been on the pitch following England’s struggles in Chennai. With many claiming that the playing surface for the second Test was unacceptable for international cricket, England have remained very level-headed, at least outwardly.
Ben Stokes has rightly pointed out that Test cricketers must be prepared to perform in all conditions, and the shift to the pink ball underlines that perfectly. The conditions in Ahmedabad will provide yet another different challenge for both sets of players, and we can but hope that the pendulum swings once again.
Based on what we’ve seen so far this winter, don’t be surprised if it does…