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Kohli’s pink-ball plan – treat it like normal test with reversed sessions

Virat Kohli wants India to approach the pink-ball test against England like a normal five-day match but with the sessions reversed, the home captain said on the eve of the third test in Ahmedabad from Wednesday (February 24).

Kohli’s century helped India crush Bangladesh by an innings and 46 runs in their maiden pink-ball test in late 2019.

The 32-year-old remembers his lessons from that day-night contest in Kolkata 15 months ago and wants his team to apply them in the third test against Joe Root’s men.

“Last time we experienced that the first session is probably the nicest to bat, when the sun is out and the ball doesn’t as much,” Kohli told a video conference on Tuesday.

“But when it starts to get dark, especially during that twilight period, it gets very tricky. The light changes and it’s difficult to sight the ball.

“And then under the lights, it’s like playing the first session in the morning in a normal test match. The ball does tend to swing a lot.

“So I think it’s a reversal of roles and something that you need to adjust to quite quickly as batsmen.

“Even if you’re set in the afternoon you have to take guard again and start from scratch in the evening and understand that you probably have to be a bit more disciplined than you were in the day when things were probably easier with the bat.”

“Last time we experienced that the first session is probably the nicest to bat, when the sun is out and the ball doesn’t do much,” Kohli told a video conference on Tuesday.

“But when it starts to get dark, especially during that twilight period, it gets very tricky. The light changes and it’s difficult to sight the ball.

“And then under the lights, it’s like playing the first session in the morning in a normal test match. The ball does tend to swing a lot.

“So I think it’s a reversal of roles and something that you need to adjust to quite quickly as a batsmen.”

Every batsman, however set he might be, must “start from scratch” in the evening, he said.

The morning session of a normal test match is often the best time for a fast bowler, but Kohli recalled the Kolkata contest and said conditions would favour the quicks more in the evening.

“I think the same kind of template will be useful in this game as well and these are the few differences from a normal test match scenario,” he said.

India triumphed by 317 runs on a turning track in Chennai to level the four-test series but Kohli expects swing bowlers to have a greater say in Ahmedabad.

“The pink ball does tend to swing a lot more than the normal red ball,” he said.

“Yes spin will come into play for sure but I don’t think the new ball and the fast bowlers can be ignored, the pink ball does bring them into the game.”

England captain Joe Root reckons batting collapses have become a “trend” in pink-ball tests and cannot overstate the importance of the “vital first 20 deliveries” to his team mates.

Both teams will head into the day-night contest at the world’s largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad having suffered batting debacles in their respective previous pink-ball tests.

India were skittled out for a record low of 36 by Australia in Adelaide in December last year, while England wilted for 58 against New Zealand in their last pink-ball match in Auckland in 2018.

“It seems to be a trend, and it’s something that as a batting group you need to make sure that you stop,” Root told a video conference on Tuesday.

“One thing that stands out to me is the vital first 20 balls — making sure you get used to tracking the ball, get used to the conditions and being very aware of how things can change throughout the day.

“It’s not necessarily just been that one moment and the lights, or that twilight period. It’s sometimes been right at the start of the game… later on in day four, these strange passages of play have happened.

“When you’re on the right side of it, you’re in the field with a ball in hand, you really got to take every opportunity and make that really count.

“Similarly with a bat in hand, you just got to really make sure that those 20 balls, you’re fighting.”

India levelled the four-test series 1-1 with a comprehensive victory in the second test in Chennai.

England must win the remaining two tests to make the final of the inaugural World Test Championship on home soil against New Zealand in June.

Speedster Jofra Archer and top-order batsman Zak Crawley have regained fitness, while Jonny Bairstow is also available for selection after being rested for the first two matches.

Root offered no clues whatsoever on the possible playing XI but preferred to look at England’s batting riches.

“I think it’s a great headache to have with these two guys back in the fold,” he said.

“Now we have got some difficult decisions to make. But these are headaches that we didn’t have a year or so ago. And now that’s testament to the hard work that these guys have put in.”

(Production: Andy Ragg)

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