Pitch mystery adds to Ahmedabad Test intrigue as Australia look to level series

Steve Smith expects flat surface on opening day of fourth Test against India

Steve Smith, right, Scott Boland and Todd Murphy, left, inspect the pitch at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad ahead of the fourth Test against India. Getty
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The Border-Gavaskar Trophy has seen the playing surfaces attract far more attention than the performance of players and that trend continued on the eve of the series deciding fourth Test in Ahmedabad, which begins on Thursday.

Australia bounced back in style in the Indore Test to make it 2-1 with a nine-wicket win inside three days on a raging turner in Indore, sealing a spot in the World Test Championships final and putting the pressure back on India.

The hosts will now be wary of exposing their batsmen to more trial by spin against Nathan Lyon and Co, while pursuing victory at the 132,000 capacity Narendra Modi Stadium, which would hand them a ticket to the showpiece event in June.

The intrigue surrounding the pitch refused to die down before the final Test, with the ground curator preparing two adjacent pitches simultaneously in the build-up to the game.

It was only when Australia and India began their final training session on Wednesday that the mystery was finally over.

Australia's stand-in captain Steve Smith said he had never experienced such mystery around a match pitch.

"Yeah rocked up today and there was only one covered so yeah looks like they have chosen," said Smith.

"Looks like probably of the four wickets we've seen so far, potentially the flattest on day one. Having said that, it's I think 38 degrees out there at the moment, it's pretty hot. Looks like it'll dry out as the day goes on."

Smith will lead Australia again in the absence of regular skipper Pat Cummins, who flew home after the second match in Delhi to be with his ailing mother in Sydney.

India retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with back-to-back wins in Nagpur and Delhi but Smith says levelling the series would feel like victory.

"It'd be a huge achievement for the group, or any touring team that comes here to India and wins two Test matches," Smith said.

The largest attendance for a single day of Test cricket is 91,112 – a record set during the fourth game between Australia and England in Melbourne during the 2013-14 Ashes series.

That could be broken on Thursday when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese attend the opening hour of play.

Updated: March 08, 2023, 10:16 AM