Back To Roaring Cricket, India Vs England Pink-Ball Third Test Begins At The New Motera Stadium!

Finally, we are back to watching cricket of the roaring kind, meaning fans in thousands are there once more to cheer on their home team and favorite players. Well, it’s still half-capacity in view of the new normal times! But at the new world-class Motera cricket stadium in Ahmedabad half-capacity means a maximum of 55 thousand spectators which has to be considered mammoth under any circumstances. Allowing that big a crowd just when there has been an alert about a possible second wave of COVID-19 in the country is, however, another matter. Before we start describing the breath-taking stadium let us first narrate the story of the first day of the third Test between India and England.


The visitors seemed to have won a crucial toss, because the hosts have decided to play three spinners, taking in Washington Sundar again in place of Kuldeep Yadav and retaining Axar Patel with R Ashwin as the winning combination in the second Chennai Test. Selecting three spinners was against expectations. Faced with a brand-new pitch on a just-inaugurated stadium nobody really knew how the pitch would behave, and considering the ‘twilight swing’ possibility it was thought that three seamers would be preferred. Perhaps India took the decision looking at the dryness of the pitch that is totally without grass. England, on the other hand, has included four seamers bringing in now-fit Jofra Archer and James Anderson, and just one spinner in Jack Leach, Moeen Ali returning home. The other important change in the team is the coming back of veteran wicket-keeper batsman Jonny Bairstow.


This Test is crucial for both teams: India would qualify for the World Test Championship Final if they win this and win the series by winning or drawing the fourth test while England must win this and the next match also to qualify. The brand-new pitch seemed to be helping both seam and spin as Axar Patel, coming in to bowl early, extracted turn in the very first over taking the wicket of Bairstow. Eventually as the day progressed India’s focus on spin paid off with Axar registering his second consecutive fiver (an amazing 6/38) and Ashwin taking up three more wickets in his quest to complete 400 test wickets, in the process becoming the second fastest spinner to capture 400 scalps after Muralitharan who achieved this feat in just 72 tests. The duo combined again to skittle England all out for 112 in less than 50 overs, 48.4 overs to be exact with the lone half century from Crawley. 

At stumps on the first day India’s score was 99/3, trailing by just 13  runs, Rohit Sharma getting an unbeaten half century while India losing Shubman Gill for 11 and the sheet anchor Cheteshwar Pujara for a duck. At this stage India is set to take a good lead which may prove crucial. With Leach already getting 2 wickets England must ruing the lack of another spinner. However, India would have much liked to avoid losing skipper Virat Kohli in the last over of the day. 


Earlier, the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, officially inaugurated the stadium, named Narendra Modi cricket stadium, with a bhoomi pujan (ritualistic worship of the site-God). He was accompanied by the union Home Minister, Amit Shah. The dignitaries stayed on for the match and were introduced to players of both the teams just before the start of the match. Indian seamer Ishant Sharma who is playing his 100th test has been presented with mementos by the President. These had been lively moments with around fifty-thousand spectators watching and cheering from the eye-catchingly attractive and sprawling stands.  


Sardar Patel Stadium at Motera, a locality of the city of Ahmedabad, had been a known as the Motera ground for cricket, and matches of all formats had been played here since 1983 including important matches of the World Cups held in India. In 2015 it was decided to dismantle the stadium completely and construct a world-class cricket stadium as part of a sports complex. While the sports complex is to be called Sardar Patel Sports Enclave that includes the disciplines of hockey, basketball and others, the magnificent cricket ground has been named Narendra Modi Cricket Stadium, to acknowledge the great contribution of the Prime Minister to develop sports and to his home state Gujarat.


With the start of the third test between India and England, the first match to be played in the new stadium, the Motera has officially become the largest cricket stadium of the world with an incredible capacity of 110 thousand spectators, beating Melbourne Cricket Ground that has 90 thousand capacity. This is also the first cricket stadium in the world to have four giant dressing rooms with gyms attached, and possibly the first one too to have LED lighting instead of the usual flood lights. It has all the modern facilities for the players of various disciplines including an Olympic-size swimming pool. There are also 76 corporate boxes that can house 25 people each. This stadium is set to have electrifying moments during the T20 World Cup, now scheduled to be held in India this October-November, with more than 110,000 people cheering, the pandemic permitting, of course.

The pitch has been behaving odd with uneven bounce, balls keeping low at times. It has also helped the spinners get turn from the word go. 13 wickets had fallen on the first day itself. The 'dew factor' is also coming into  play as the England bowlers were affected to some extent. Depending on how the game proceeds on the next two days, if at all the match does last three days, questions are bound to be raised on the pitch, also in view of the fact that one more test match is to be played here. 


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