The pink-ball Test in Ahmedabad, much like the second Test in Chennai, has fueled debates over pitch conditions. The Day/Night game between India and England ended within two days, with India securing a thumping 10-wicket win. The wicket’s alarming assistance to the spinners remained one of the major talking points of the game, and it derives merit from the stats – 28 of 30 dismissals throughout the game belonged to spinners.
In the second innings, England were bowled out entirely by the spinning trio of Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin and Washington Sundar. England captain Joe Root – a part-time spinner – ended with his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket, having played 102 Tests for the side.
All of this points to a singular outcome that the pitch had been demonic. A number of former English cricketers have hinted as much. But does it really tell the full story?
A major focus throughout the game remained on the pitch conditions due to the pre-existing narrative over their ‘extremity’ in this series. The one thing which has remained undermined in most of these conversations has been the irregularities surrounding the pink ball – and the SG pink ball at that.
The SG Pink Ball
The nature of SG Pink Ball is still largely unknown to a majority of cricket-playing nations due to the obvious reason that only three countries have played with it so far. Only two games – India vs Bangladesh (2019) and the game in Ahmedabad have been played with the SG ball.
With a pronounced seam on the ball and extra lacquer, the ball did its tricks to such an extent that the anticipation for sharp turn became a psychological fear for many, as was evident with the fact that 21 of 30 wickets in the match fell to deliveries which were straight.
In an interview with ESPNCricinfo, the market director of SG Paras Anand had said that there is an extra coating on the SG ball to protect its shine, further aiding to its durability. Its combination with an entirely hand-stitched and significantly more prominent seam makes the SG pink ball go quicker off the wicket, thus adding to the troubles for the batsmen.
India, who obviously read the pitch better than their English counterparts, easily outperformed their spin options. Axar Patel proved one of the major difference between the two sides, as his horizontal-seam made it difficult for the batsmen to anticipate the line.
In essence, it is as lethal as facing swing/seam on a grassy wicket.
The first pink-ball Test in India also remained fairly one-sided -- in favour of the seamers. In the Eden Gardens, India’s only spinner in the game, Ravindra Jadeja bowled only 2 overs. The match had finished within three days, with Indian pacers outshining their Bangladesh counterparts.
A recurring issue
In fact, if one looks at the overall stats, a total of 16 pink ball Tests have been played so far, with only five taking place for the entirety of five days (four, if one counts out the match between England and New Zealand in 2017, where play for two days was called off due to rain).
Five of them gave result within three days.
In India’s previous pink-ball Test, the side registered its lowest-ever score in history as it was bowled out on 36. The Aussie pacers were able to extract movement away from the right-hander with the delivery, inducing outside-edges on almost all occasions.
Similarly, in the only pink-ball Test being played in England, the home team cruised to a mammoth innings-and-209-run victory over the hapless West Indies, securing a victory within three days.
One can argue, however, that these are still very early days for day/night Tests. Many countries are yet to play Test cricket under lights with all the balls available in international cricket at present. The pink-ball Tests remains a baby trying to take its first steps, and the cricket fraternity could certainly do with more familiarization with pink ball to understand its complexities.