Captain Joe Root refused to pin the blame for England’s 10-wicket third Test loss against India on the much maligned pitch conditions in Ahmedabad.
England slipped to defeat comfortably inside two days on a surface which broke up significantly and saw 28 of 30 wickets fall to spinners.
Root’s side were bowled out for just 112 and 81, with India replying with 145 and 49-0 to go 2-1 up in the series and end England’s chances of reaching this summer’s ICC World Test Championship final.
It was only the second time since 1904 that England have batted for less than 80 overs across two innings and only the fifth time in history.
It was also the shortest Test Match played around the world in terms of overs – just 140.2 – since 1935.
Pundits and fans were quick to slam the pitch, prepared for this pink ball day/night fixture, though Root pointed to another reason for the quick-fire clatter of wickets: “The ball, if I’m being honest,” he said.
“That plastic coating gathers pace off the wicket.
“It is good quality bowling. If you put the ball in good areas consistently and some spin and some go straight, it makes it difficult for batters. You could say both sides struggled with that, not just us.”
Root won the toss and elected to bat, with England slipping from a position of relative strength.
“We felt like we got ourselves in a pretty good position (at 70-2) and didn’t capitalise on it.
“Had we got 250 on that wicket, that could have been a really good score.
“It’s something we will look back on and try and make sure we are better for it.
“We have to keep trying and learning all the time.
A week like this does not define us as a team. We will come back and use the hurt of this week going into the last game.”
That will be a red ball day game, starting on Thursday (4am) at the same venue, the brand new Sardar Patel Stadium.
Root said: “We have to be confident going into that last game. It will be difficult – a few players have got to put this behind them, but that is one of the challenges of Test cricket.
“If you get on the wrong end of a couple of results, it is how you respond.
“You need strong characters in the dressing room, and we’ve certainly got that and some really good players who will be desperate to come away from this tour with something.”
There were only seven individual scores in double figures across the two innings. Zak Crawley’s first-innings 53 was the best, while Root made 17 and 19.
On day two, which saw 17 wickets fall, Root ended India’s first innings with figures of 5-8 from 6.2 overs of off-spin, his best first-class figures, beating the 4-5 he took for Yorkshire against Lancashire in the 2018 Championship win at Old Trafford.
When asked about his figures, he did give some indication of his views on the surface: “I think it sums the wicket up if I’m getting five wickets!” he said.
“It was nice to contribute, but disappointing it was in a losing cause.”
Speaking in his post-mach press conference, after the on-field presentation, however, he stressed: “It is not for players to decide whether it is fit for purpose or not. That’s up to the ICC.
“As players, we have got to try and counter what’s in front of us as best as we can.”