India and England head to the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad for the second half of the four-match Test series, which is currently locked at 1-1. The third Test, a day-night affair, has extra significance attached as its outcome will have a major say on who faces New Zealand in the ICC World Test Championship final later this year.
The Motera pitch will be crucial in deciding which of India, England and Australia qualifies for the remaining final berth. Here is why:
Pitches for red-ball Tests vs pink-ball Tests
Day-night Tests usually have a higher proportion of grass covering than the traditional format. They are required to have 6mm of grass on the surface, in order to ensure the pink ball retains its shine for a longer period. The ball is also coated with an extra layer of lacquer so that it does not get roughed-up too soon.
Together, these factors make for favourable conditions for swing bowling with batting becoming particularly challenging at twilight.
How will the Motera pitch be?
The Motera pitch is not expected to be like a conventional day-night surface. There will not be a 6mm grass covering on the surface and thus Motera, a historically slow pitch, will likely be another turning surface which will aid the spinners.
How were the pitches in previous pink-ball Tests in India?
A conventional pink-ball pitch was used in the only previous day-night Test in India, against Bangladesh at Kolkata's Eden Gardens in 2019. Indian seamers reaped the favourable conditions and took 19 of the 20 wickets - with one player retired-hurt. India (347/9) won by an innings and 46 runs as the visitors were bundled out for 106 and 195.
Why is it different in Motera?
India need to win the series, regardless of the margin, to seal their berth in the inaugural World Test Championship final at the Lord's Cricket Stadium in June. Another loss will leave only Engladn and Australia in the running for the final.
Thus, the management are looking to make the conditions favourable for the stronger Indian spin attack to ensure the home side win the series.
India bounced back from a defeat in the first Test at Chennai to register a convincing 317-run victory in spin-friendly conditions in the second match.
England were unable to cope with the home spinners, who took all 10 wickets in the second innings, in that match. The conditions will also take the edge away from the strong English seam attack, while the Indian quicks are used to bowling on such pitches.
However, with the ball likely to get getting roughed-up soon, and with the use of saliva prohibited due to COVID-19 protocols, reverse swing could come into play much earlier in this match, something both teams will take into account.