Steven Smith – I don’t remember two days after the test I wasn’t sure which pitch I was going to play on

Steven Smith couldn’t remember another situation where he wasn’t sure which pitch he would be playing in a test match two days before it started.

That was the situation that emerged in Ahmedabad on Tuesday as Australia left the ground still in the dark as to which of the two surfaces would be used for the final test. However, after the guests left, the picture became clearer. The Indian Hierarchy focused their attention on the drier pitch with black soil, instead of the red one, which also appeared much greener – although the landowner told Smith that both would be significantly cut with grass.

“[There] there could be a couple [pitches] I prepared maybe a little more than two days, but I don’t remember two days,” Smith said.

Even by the time Australia finished training on Tuesday, around four hours after arriving on the ground, the likely test ground had already begun to change character.

“I didn’t go out and look this afternoon, but Alex Carey did,” said Smith. “It looked completely different, it was much drier in the afternoon. It’s very hot here, 37 degrees, which gives it a chance to dry out, and I think the lid was a bit on today. So they’re potentially worried that it’s drying out too much. It certainly changed in a few hours. Looking back today, we’ll be able to potentially see what it does.”

With three three-day Tests so far – and the last one barely made it that far – this series is on track to finish with the fewest balls thrown in a four-match series. However, Smith said the landowner indicated that this game would last longer than others

All indications are that Australia will field three front-row spinners again, especially now that Cameron Green is able to balance the team. He was only needed for two stopovers in Indore while Mitchell Starc was called in for the 12th.

“It was weird with a bit of commentary at home, people were talking about us playing three fast and one spinner. It amazes me a bit when we look at these surfaces.”

Smith took the opportunity to smack some pundits a bit, who suggested that Australia should have stuck to their strengths in fast bowling with three fast and only one spinner. It was the model that won the 2004 series, but on very different surfaces.

Scott Boland worked with Pat Cummins in Nagpur before Cummins was a lone fast in Delhi. Starc and Green then returned to Indore. The victory in the third test gave the team confidence that their planning was correct.

“It was weird with a bit of commentary at home, people were talking about us playing three fast spinners and one spinner,” said Smith. “It’s amazing to me when you look at these surfaces and see what we’ve had, 11 innings in six days or so, and the spinners have taken most of the wickets and you see how hard it is to play a spin.

“It’s a bit weird to hear these kinds of comments, but we believed in what we were trying to do and it’s good that we are able to show that we can play with three spinners and win. We weren’t too far from Delhi other than this hour of madness. It’s nice to know that our plans and everything we’re trying to do can work out.

Smith is looking for more downstream runs

One area where Smith would like to see improvement is downstream productivity, where India has surpassed what Australia has been able to produce. Even in the victory, they lost 6 to 11 on the second day.

From 8th place India won 307 runs with a series score of 25.58 compared to Australia’s 84 and 4.94. In comparison, although Rohit Sharma scored a lone century, the top seven is almost identical: Australia completed 776 runs at 22.92 and India 709 runs at 22.15.

Australia does not expect the contribution that Axar Patel can provide – it would not be out of place in the top six – but wants to find a way to strengthen the partnership.

“Tail is something we’ve talked about, probably as batsmen [they] they didn’t contribute as much as we’d like,” Smith said. “It makes a big difference when you see someone like Axar who was extremely difficult to get out. And when it comes to our top six versus their top six, there isn’t a huge difference in series averages. “

There is a significant amount at stake in this final match. A 3-1 result would suggest that playing India in their terms there is still a gap, though not as wide as some thought, while a 2-2 result would be an unusual result for Australia, especially considering where they were after the second test in Delhi .

“I think coming to India and winning two test matches would be a huge achievement for this group or any touring band,” said Smith. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to do that earlier in the series and give ourselves a chance to win, but a draw here would be a huge plus and positive.”

Andrew McGlashan is associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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