After declaring at 377/8, India reduced Australia to 143/4 in 60 overs on day 3 of the one-off Pink Ball Test between the two nations in Carrara on Saturday.
Despite a draw at the least looking inevitable, there were some stellar passages of play in the Gold Coast. Here are the talking points from the day:
1. Pink ball under lights for the first time: Due to bad weather, the first two days of this one-off Test did not see most of their post dinner sessions. Day 3 was the first time the pink ball got some good time under the lights. While India's declaration seemed laboured (for some of us watching at least), the strategy was clearly to get Australia in to bat under the lights to try and make early inroads. There was some bounce to begin with but the ball eventually moved less than the red ball would, with bowlers needing to rely on their line and length more than any distinct advantage from the ball itself. Mithali Raj called for the ball to wiped/changes multiple times too after dew repeatedly got the seam soaking.
Pooja Vastrakar weighed in on bowling with the pink ball at the post match presser. She called it 'fun' but confirmed there was not much assistance with movement from the ball itself. More on Vastrakar in a bit.
Indian pace Jhulan supremacy:
It's safe to say that a large section of Indian fans have been waiting with bated breath to see what magic Jhulan Goswami could manage with the pink ball. To say she did not disappoint is putting it mildly. The 38-year-old, still the pace spearhead of the country, got India its first breakthrough by castling Beth Mooney. The steady Aussie opener couldn't get away this full length ball safely with an inside edge rocking her leg stump. The highlight of Goswami's spell on day 3 HAS to be the set up for Alyssa Healy's wicket. In the 23rd over, Goswami - coming in for Gayakwad - started off with a back of a length delivery pitching outside off. Healy edged it low but it bounced to Taniya Bhatia behind the stumps. She followed this with a similar delivery, but Healy stepped forward to defend. The ball went through her through, missing her bat and her body by the slightest of margins. This was followed by a bouncer which hit Healy on the shoulder. The Aussie opener thought she could get this off to the boundary ropes but only ends up with a blow, needing a minute to get back to her guard. However, it seemed Goswami had done enough as she got Healy out in the very next ball - Good length ball, straight-ish but seeming to move away. In deciding how to play it, Healy stepped forward a little but only ended up edging this to the keeper. No errors there. Goswami has dismissed Healy five times in 17 limited overs clashes. This though will undoubtedly be the centrepiece of this match-up without doubt.
Meghna Singh, whose swing in the ODIs had fans and pundits sitting up and taking notice, played good second fiddle. However, it was Vastrakar, who has had a career plagued with injuries, who registered her name on the wickets board - removing the dangerous Meg Lanning and Tahlia McGrath.
The comparison is interesting. Australia came into this game expecting seam to triumph, packing its arsenal with five pacers (including the all-rounders and part-timers), but the lineup found little success. Perry and Campbell got two wickets each, but it came after much toil. The Indians made it look easy but this also highlighted just how much of excitement this game was robbed of due to the washouts.
3. No DRS hurts Aussies: DRS was discussed when Punam Raut walked despite being judged not out by the umpire. Maybe DRS may have made a difference there, maybe it wouldn't have. But one place the choice of a referral would have made a world of difference was when Lanning was adjudged lbw off Vastrakar. Vastrakar got her line and length right but replays suggest it was edged off Lanning's bat. Unfortunate for the hosts given how strong she was looking. Her sticking around would have meant a different turn of events for the Aussies. DRS was planned for this series, but a last minute venue change and COVID protocol meant the logistics could not be figured out in time. Given the Aussies still have Test cricket in the calendar with the Ashes, one will hope to see the positive impact DRS has on the game then.
3. Conversations on the format: Will India enforce the follow-on? Can Australia build with Perry and Gardner? Can India extract a win out of a game that looks headed towards a draw? So many questions. Just one day to answer it all. When India proceeded towards a declaration at snail pace, the internet was left debating what an extra day - either a set fifth day or a reserve day due to the kind of interruptions this game saw - could have done for the outcome of this match. While the clamours for five-day Tests in the women's game have only grown louder, the key factor here seems to be regularity. How often are women's Tests scheduled? If we have more in a calendar year, the push to extend the duration might attract more support. Both Tests India has played this year had and have the potential to see very different results should a fifth day have been available.
This is not the only debate regarding format. The multiformat series also saw the points awarded come under scrutiny. Healy revealed that discussions on tweaking the point system have been had in the Aussie dressing room. " If we make the Test match slightly less valuable, like 2 points instead of 4, it will make teams less nervous about going for the win. 4 points are a hefty sum. That said, this seems to be working fine for us in the Ashes," she said after day's play. County systems have a more intricate point system with separate point for batting and bowling. Could this be a way to make things more interesting for these Tests in multiformat tours? Regularity of games is again the key for conversations about this.
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