Southampton: All the anticipation, all the buildup, and it ends up being all about the rain on the first day of the World Test Championship between the world's top two teams, India and New Zealand here on Friday.
The opening day's action of the greatest Test matches, has ended after an extended farce, with rain playing the role.
This is for the first time in seven Test matches at Rose Bowl here, the first day's play has been abandoned without a ball bowled. This means the reserve day's play will come into force.
As per ICC playing conditions guidelines for the WTC final, if required the reserve sixth day can now come into effect with six hours of play lost on Day 1 itself.
There was forecast of rain and thundershowers and the heavens opened up last evening with relentless downpour continuing till afternoon.
With puddles forming throughout the outfield, even the best drainage system couldn't have possibly forced some action on the opening day.
Umpires Michael Gough and Richard Illingworth, after multiple inspections, called off the game at 7:30 pm IST (3 pm local time).
While there has been talk about Southampton being the preferred venue, it has been learnt that BCCI was taken into confidence by both the ICC and England and Wales Cricket Board before they finalised the venue which also has a five-star facility within the premises, helping create a tight bio-secure bubble.
The English weather is known to be fickle and in any case, there was no guarantee that the match being played at any other venue would have not led to a wash-out on the first day.
In the last five years, England has hosted 32 men's Test matches and only as many as four have ended in draws which is an indication that even if rain plays spoilsport, the final will go the distance.
Will India change the playing XI ?
Team India announced their playing XI last evening and it comprised of two spinners (Ashwin and Jadeja) and three seamers (Bumrah, Shami and Ishant). Now, with the weather playing its part, taking away more than a session and a half on Day 1 and conditions still overcast for today and the next few days, will India change their XI and go in with additional seamer? Technically they are allowed to do so, change the playing XI as the toss still has not taken place yet.
As per the ICC rule 1.2.1 of the playing conditions of WTC final, each captain shall nominate 11 players plus a maximum of four substitute in writing on the sheet provided by ICC. Other than as set out in clause 1.2.7 and 1.2.8 no player (member of the playing eleven) may be changed after the nomination without the consent of the opposing captain. Immediately prior to the toss, the ICC Match Referee or his nominee shall check with both team captains that the players nominated on the team sheet are correct.
Fielding coach Sridhar rules out change
India's fielding coach R Sridhar ruled out the possibility of a change in the playing XI after the opening day of the World Test Championship final against New Zealand was washed out, insisting that the chosen players are capable of making conditions irrelevant.
The fickle English weather means that temperatures would go down and there would be overcast conditions and after a day of frustrating wait and no toss, a question was asked if India would still like to go in with three pacers and two specialist spinners.
"I was expecting this to be first question. The eleven that has been announced is eleven that takes conditions out of equation," Sridhar told the media after the opening day wash-out.
"I think its the eleven which can play and perform on any given surface and any given weather conditions. This eleven that has been put on park. If need be, a decision will be taken."
The first day's play being abandoned means that if required, four hours of play will be possible on the sixth day which is reserved for a result.
"It's trial and refinement with experience that ICC has got in organising matches and they know what it is about. And we all know how the English weather is," Sridhar said.
"I think they have been prudent and wise. As it is, if play starts on time, we are looking at four hours of play on the reserve day.
"That's going to make it a complete match and that's what the viewers and audience want, a complete game," the former Hyderabad left-arm spinner said.
On the players' front, Sridhar feels that Shubman Gill, irrespective of an underwhelming England series and below-par first phase of IPL, has looked in good nick.
"Shubman Gill is a million dollar cricketer. He is batting brilliantly now. I am not in a position to give you technical details as that will be an answer better given by (batting coach) Vikram (Rathour)," he said.
"I have given him throwdowns and seen him bat. He is looking in good nick and looking in excellent mindset. He is clear about his role and game plan. He is an exciting prospect for India in long term and I just can't wait to watch him play," the fielding coach added.
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