India vs England 2021: Local Conditions and Dew At Motera Might Negate Traditional Advantage to Fast Bowlers in Pink Ball Tests
India and England will clash in a massive Pink Ball Test which gets underway at the Sardar Patel Stadium at Motera in Ahmedabad from Wednesday, the 24th of February. With the series tied at 1-1 the stakes could not have been higher in this crucial third Test. The Day and Night Test is a new addition to cricket and brings with it its own set of trends and patterns. We look at some such established patterns and some interesting numbers from the 15 Day and Night Tests that have been played in the last six years.
Fast Bowlers – Higher Wicket-Taking Propensity and More Restrictive
The fast bowlers have enjoyed bowling with the Pink Ball much more than the spinners. In the 15 Day and Night Tests, the fast bowlers have taken 354 wickets at an average of 24.47 while the spinners have just managed to take 115 wickets at a significantly worse average of 35.38. The fast bowlers have also struck every 50 balls for a wicket (strike rate of 49.7) and taken 15 five-wickets in an innings and one ten-wicket haul. The spinners, in contrast, have a strike rate of 65.2 including 6 five-wickets in an innings and one ten-wicket haul.
Interestingly, the economy rate of fast bowlers has also been lower than that of spinners in Pink Ball Tests. The fast bowlers have conceded at a rate of 2.94 while the spinners have given away 3.25 runs per over.
The advantage to fast bowlers might be negated by two factors at Motera. One, the patch of green will in all likelihood be removed completely on match-day which suggests that the pitch could be a fast turner similar to the one in the second Chennai Test. Secondly, dew is expected in the final session which will make it difficult for the ball to reverse.
Toss Not A Factor in Pink Ball Tests But Home Advantage is
The team that has won the toss has gone on to win 8 of the 15 Day and Night Test matches. Seven of these wins were registered by the home team. The only exception was Sri Lanka who beat Pakistan by 68 runs in Dubai in 2017. So while the result of a Pink Ball Test may not alone be dictated by the toss it is certainly affected when you add home advantage to it. Only twice has a visiting team won a Day and Night Test – apart from their win in Dubai, it was Sri Lanka again who beat the West Indies by four wickets in Bridgetown in 2018.
This is good news for India because it basically means that home advantage and local conditions play a huge role even in Pink Ball Day and Night Tests.
Australia Most Dominant Team in Pink Ball Tests
Australia have played the maximum number of Day and Night Tests amongst all teams. They have also dominated the new format winning all such 8 encounters. Not only do they have a hundred percent record but have ruthlessly dictated play in 6 of these 8 victories – two wins by an innings, another by 296 runs, 120 runs, 8 wickets and 7 wickets.
India has played two Pink Ball Tests. They beat Bangladesh by an innings and 46 runs in Kolkata in 2019 but were routed by 8 wickets (including a low of 36) at the Adelaide Oval in 2020. England have played just one Day and Night Test in Birmingham in 2017 in which they beat the West Indies by a massive margin of an innings and 209 runs.
Second Session Best To Score Runs in Day and Night Tests
The second session is the most productive session for batsmen in Day and Night Tests. This is interesting as the dreaded twilight period for batsmen should on most occasions fall in the second session of play – of course this may vary depending where the match is being played and at what time of the year – but by and large the sun set should happen at some point in the second session.
However, this might change at Motera where the last session of play under lights might be the most profitable for the batsmen due to the dew factor. The fast bowlers may not get the ball to reverse and the spinners may find it difficult to grip the wet ball in the last session of play.
Twilight Period Does Not Really Cause Havoc with the Pink Ball
There has been a lot written about the dreaded twilight session in Day and Night Tests when teams can potentially collapse and lose half their batting line-up in an hour of play usually towards the end of the second session which sometimes extends a bit into the final session too. A number of factors have been listed that affect the batsmen adversely – a change from natural light to artificial light, difficulty in sighting the Pink Ball during this period of transition, a sudden drop in temperature which aids swing and seam bowling and a possible change in the direction of the wind.
But the fascinating thing is that bowling strike rates, on an average, are almost identical in all the three sessions of play! This suggests two things – either the bowlers do not get the advantage in the twilight period as is the popular perception. Or, and this is more likely – they do get some advantage but the batsmen are also on guard and at their watchful best which reduces the probability of them getting dismissed even when the conditions are tricky and difficult.