Day two of the Test saw a dramatic sight perhaps never seen before on the cricket field. Sri Lanka’s fielder took to wearing surgical masks in a bid to withstand Delhi’s worsening air quality in the face of excessive pollution and smog.
Sri Lanka pacer Suranga Lakmal stopped in his run-up as he started coughing and had to leave the field to receive medical attention. Three times play was stopped as the visitors complained of struggling with difficult conditions.
The Indians were clearly not happy with the disruptions and skipper Virat Kohli expressed his displeasure in clear terms by throwing away his bat in disgust. Head coach Ravi Shastri came charging onto the field to have a word with the umpires. The Delhi crowd meanwhile aimed their taunts at the islander as chants of ‘losers, losers’ echoed around the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.
The general feeling among the Indian camp was that the Sri Lankans were playing up the situation to kill some valuable time in the Test.
The BCCI also made its stance clear on the subject when acting president CK Khanna made a statement to the media at the end of the day.
“If 20,000 people in the stands did not have a problem and the Indian team did not face any issue, I wonder why Sri Lankan team made a big fuss. I will need to talk to the secretary and ask him to write to the Sri Lanka Cricket,” he said.
Sri Lanka coach Nic Pothas had a completely different point of view though as he narrated the ordeal his players had to go through.
“They had got extremely high at one point, we had players coming in at one point and vomiting. There were oxygen cylinders in the dressing room,” said the coach.
“It is not normal for players to suffer in that way while playing the game. From our point of view it has to be stated that it is a very unique case. We had to play cricket. Under all circumstance, we wanted to play cricket. We just wanted to have some clarity on the safely of players,” he added.
There is a possibility that Dinesh Chandimal’s men might have overplayed the situation but there is simply no denying that the pollution levels in Delhi are at a hazardous level at the moment.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) spiked to 368 on Monday morning with the met department warning that it is expected to cross 400 in the coming days. For the record, the AQI at the same time at Adelaide where the second Ashes Test is currently underway hovered between two to six.
What’s currently happening in Delhi is unprecedented in the history of the sport. Games have been delayed or interrupted due to bad lights and inclement weather but never before has one heard about a match being stopped due to pollution.
It is one for the BCCI as well as the ICC to moot. For the BCCI, the question is why Delhi was awarded a game in the first place in peak winter when smog levels are at their highest and air quality at its lowest.
For the ICC, it will be wise to chart a course of actions for such incidents in the future and set some guidelines with regards to air quality levels in future matches. With no precedent in the past, the match referee at Delhi was put in a tight spot with both sets of team conflicted on the matter.
The health and safety of the players, officials, staff and fans should be paramount and while what happened on Sunday was not something we like to see on a cricket field, it is definitely one the ICC and the BCCI cannot ignore.
Pacer Jasprit Bumrah was handed his maiden Test call-up as the Indian selectors announced the 17-man squad for the tour of South Africa commencing at the end of the year.
There was also a recall for wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel as India opted to take a deputy for mainstay Wriddhiman Saha.
Bumrah has become a vital cog in India’s limited-overs setup over the past year and he beat competition from the likes of Shardul Thakur and Vijay Shankar to take the fifth pacer’s slot in the 17-man squad.
Patel had meanwhile played his last Test for India against England in December 2016 when he was filling in for the injured Saha.
India are set to play three Tests, six ODIs and three T20Is in their more than two-month long tour of the African country.
#TeamIndia for three- match Test series against South Africa announced
Virat (Capt), Vijay, Rahul, Shikhar, Pujara, Rahane (vc), Rohit, Saha (wk), Ashwin, Jadeja, Parthiv, Hardik, Bhuvneshwar, Shami, Ishant, Umesh, Bumrah. #SAvIND
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 4, 2017
The squads for the limited-overs matches will be announced at a much later date.
The BCCI also announced the squad for the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka with Rohit Sharma once again chosen to lead the side as Virat Kohli gets a well deserved rest.
#TeamIndia for Paytm T20Is against Sri Lanka announced
Rohit (Capt), Rahul, Shreyas, Manish, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Hardik, W Sundar, Yuzvendra, Kuldeep, Deepak Hooda, Bumrah, M Siraj, Basil Thampi, Jaydev Unadkat. #INDvSL
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 4, 2017
There were quite a few fresh faces selected for the T20I series as Kerala pacer Basil Thampi along with all-rounders Deepak Hooda and Washington Sundar receiving their maiden call-up to the national side.
There was also place in the side for left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat who last played a T20I for India in June 2016 against Zimbabwe.
INDIA SQUAD FOR TEST SERIES AGAINST SOUTH AFRICA
Virat Kohli (C), KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Vc), Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin,Wriddhiman Saha, Parthiv Patel, Ravindra Jadeje, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.
INDIA SQUAD FOR T20I SERIES AGAINST SRI LANKA
Rohit Sharma (C), KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Jasprit Bumrah, Basil Thampi, Jaydev Unadkat.
It was another eventful day under lights with the pink ball as Joe Root’s men were bundled out for 227 runs after resuming from their overnight score of 29-1. The hosts were 53-4 when stumps were called on day three.
We look at the good and bad performances for an extremely crucial day in context of the five-match series.
NATHAN LYON-LED AUSTRALIAN BOWLING ATTACK TOPPLES ENGLAND
Australia’s first innings total of 442-8d showed that there were plenty of runs available on the wicket for the batsmen who can dig it out. England’s batsmen were not allowed the same luxury however as the hosts’ bowling attack showed why they were so feared before the start of the series.
All four of the Australian bowlers chipped in with vital contributions on the third day but it was spinner Nathan Lyon who shone the brightest with a four-wicket haul. The off-spinner got the important scalps of Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali with some nice flight and dip before removing the last England pair of Stuart Broad and James Anderson in the final session. The 30-year-old finished with figures of 4-60 to help Australia to a massive 215 first-innings lead.
JAMES ANDERSON AND CHRIS WOAKES LEADS FIGHTBACK UNDER LIGHTS
Chris Woakes had earlier led a mini England fight-back along with Craig Overton, making a well made 36 runs. The all-rounder then led another comeback with pink-ball in hand in the final session at the Adelaide Oval with two quick wickets including the massive scalp of Australia skipper Steve Smith.
England’s late charge was spearheaded by James Anderson who removed opener Cameron Bancroft with a perfect out-swinger before trapping Usman Khawaja plumb in front of the wickets.
Woakes then sent back the dangerous David Warner whose outside edge was taken sharply by Root at second-slip before perhaps his most important contribution of the night.
Smith had been reprieved once already after his review overturned the decision to adjudge him leg-before-wicket against Anderson but another review against Woakes could not save him from getting dismissed in the same mode.
JAMES VINCE AND JOE ROOT FALL TO NEEDLESS STROKES
England needed a massive day with the bat to keep their hopes alive in Adelaide and there was no doubt that the Aussies were going to come in hard at them on day three.
However, the way the visitors lost their first two wickets on the day will rile the English team management.
In only his fourth ball of the day, Vince went for a stroke he could well have done without to perish to Hazlewood. The right-hander tried to put away a rising back-of-the-length delivery but could only feather an edge to Tim Paine behind the stumps.
The way the skipper fell next was perhaps the most frustrating for the visitors. Root went hard at a full delivery from Cummins but sliced his effort to Bancroft at third slip to depart for only nine runs.
ENGLAND’S BATTING WOES BITE THEM HARD
The fall of Root, the cornerstone of England’s batting, set the tone for the day as the Aussie bowlers assumed the ascendancy. What was disappointing for the visitors was that no batsmen got stuck in at the crease to go big.
There were numerous starts in the innings but the fact that debutant Overton top-scored for England coming in at number nine tells you all you need to know about their batting performance on the day.
Cook failed to kick-on after getting to 37 while the likes of Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow were also guilty of throwing away good starts.
If not for the eighth-wicket stand between Woakes and Overton, England’s batting card would have looked shambolic.