England are mulling over whether to lodge a formal complaint about the pitch used during their two-day defeat to India in Ahmedabad even if Chris Silverwood, the head coach, accepts his team were also culpable.
The combination of a turning track and a pink ball that skidded on from the spin bowlers resulted in the shortest completed Test in 96 years, with 17 wickets falling on the second day and Joe Root claiming supporters had been “robbed”.
Silverwood spoke to the ICC match referee, Javagal Srinath, on day one about possible inconsistency from the third umpire and now he and Root must decide if the team should go back to officially register displeasure at the surface.
“We will be talking about certain things behind the scenes,” Silverwood said. “At the same time, we are disappointed that we are sat here when there should be three days of cricket left. I am sure a few spectators are as well.
“We’ve spoken to Javagal Srinath but not about the pitch. Joe and I have to have a sit-down, have a conversation and see where we go with it.
“We do have to get better on these pitches and we do have to accept there’s places where we could have improved. Look at the first innings [collapse from 74 for two to 112 all out]. We had an opportunity there to score more runs and next time we’ll pounce on that. And whatever the pitch did or didn’t do, India ultimately played better than us on that surface. But it probably pushed us to the extremes of what most of our players, if any, have experienced.”
Silverwood pointed to India’s struggles with the bat on day two, when Root’s maiden five-wicket haul in his 102nd Test appearance led them to collapse from 99 for three to 145 all out, and shared his hope that the pitch for next week’s fourth Test would be flatter so players can “show off their skills”.
While the two sides meet again at the Narendra Modi stadium, the red SG ball returns for a day game and India know that a draw will be sufficient to progress to the final of the World Test Championship in June; producing another guaranteed result pitch would eliminate that possibility.
Given the ICC grades every pitch, it is not obvious what a formal complaint would achieve for a touring side that, up to now, has tried to avoid accusations of whinging simply because their 1-0 lead has been spun into a 2-1 deficit.
Both Tom Harrison and Ian Watmore, respectively chief executive and chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board, are in India and will be wary of offending their hosts given the lucrative return series in England this August and September.
As well as blowing their advantage at the toss, England also misread conditions horrendously by selecting a four-pronged seam attack who shared just one wicket in 28 overs and lengthened the tail of an already brittle batting line-up.
Silverwood said Dom Bess, who was dropped for the since-departed Moeen Ali, was left out for a second match running for tactical reasons, with the off-spinner in contention to return when England attempt to level the series next week.
“[Bess] was left out because of the potential movement we could have got out of the pink ball,” Silverwood said. “We’ve got two bowlers – Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson – in the top 10 of the bowling rankings and if they can move the ball around, they’re a handful.
“All the evidence was that it moved in training, in the middle and in the nets. So from Bessy’s point of view I wouldn’t read too much into that. He’s played an important part in helping us win games in the past and I’m sure he will do again in the future.”