That was the situation that emerged in Ahmedabad on Tuesday, with Australia leaving the ground still in the dark over which of the two surfaces would be used for the final test. However, after the visitors left, the picture became clearer. The hierarchy of India turned their attention to the drier black soil pitch, rather than the red soil pitch which also appeared significantly greener – though the gardener had told Smith that both would have been significantly stripped of grass.
“[There] may have been a few [pitches] maybe prepared for a little longer than two days, but I don’t remember two days,” Smith said.
Even by the time Australia finished training on Tuesday, about four hours after arriving on the ground, the likely test field was already beginning to change character.
“I didn’t go look in the afternoon, but Alex Carey did,” said Smith. “It looked very different, a lot drier in the afternoon. It’s very hot here, 37 degrees, which gives it a chance to dry out and I think the blanket has been on a bit today. So they may be afraid it will dry out too much. It’s definitely changed in a few hours. If we look today, we might be able to see what it’s going to do.”
“It was weird with a little bit of commentary at home, people talking about us playing three fast and one spinner. It’s a little baffling to me when we look at these surfaces”
Smith took the opportunity to take a small swipe at some of the pundits who suggested Australia should have stuck to their fast-bowling powers with three quicks and just one spinner. That was the model that won the 2004 series, but on very different surfaces.
“It was weird with a little bit of commentary at home, people talking about us playing three quicks and one spinner,” Smith said. “It’s a bit baffling to me when we look at these surfaces and we see what we’ve had, 11 innings in six days or so, and spinners have taken most of the wickets and you see how difficult it is to play . the spider.
“It’s a bit strange to hear that kind of comment, but we’ve been confident in what we’re trying to do and it’s good that we can show that we can play with three spinners and win. We weren’t too far off in Neither can Delhi, outside of that hour of madness. It’s nice to know that our plans and everything we’re trying to do can work.”
Smith looks for more lower-order runs
One area where Smith would like to see improvement is lower-order productivity, where India has overpowered what Australia has been able to produce. Even in victory, they lost 6 for 11 on the second day.
As of number 8, India has scored 307 runs with 25.58 in the series, compared to Australia’s 84 and 4.94. In comparison, although Rohit Sharma has scored the only century, the top seven are almost identical with Australia making 776 runs at 22.92 and India 709 runs at 22.15.
Australia doesn’t expect the level of contribution Axar Patel can make – he wouldn’t be out of place in the top six – but wants to find a way to build partnerships.
“The tail is something we’ve talked about, probably as hitters [they] didn’t contribute as much as we would have liked,” Smith said. “That’s a big difference when you see someone like Axar who’s incredibly hard to get out of. And in terms of our top six versus their top six, there’s not a huge difference in averages for the series.”
“I think it would be a huge achievement for this group, or any touring team, to come to India and win two test matches,” said Smith. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to do it earlier in the series and give ourselves a chance to win, but to tie the series here would be a huge plus and positive.”
Andrew McGlashan is deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo