Hybrid pitch adds spin to Games T20 debut

·2-min read

A famous but unfamiliar venue and a foreign, hybrid surface await Australia in their high-stakes Commonwealth Games Twenty20 cricket debut against India.

Edgbaston Stadium has played host to Australia's tied World Cup semi-final against South Africa in 1999, England's two-run Ashes victory in 2005 and Steve Smith's dual Ashes hundreds on return in 2019.

But only one of Australia's all-conquering women's side - Rachael Haynes - has ever played there.

And in a further unknown, the match will be played on a hybrid surface that weaves artificial material with turf to leave the teams guessing a day out from competition.

"Playing the first game on it might be the hardest in some ways and then we're playing the last (pool game on hybrid too)," allrounder Ash Gardner told reporters on Thursday, admitting the team had little experience on the surface.

Popular in the United Kingdom, the hybrid surface is designed to be more hardy and weather resistant than traditional turf pitches that would deteriorate under the strain of back-to-back games on the same centre square across the tournament.

"There was a little bit of purchase (for spin bowlers at Thursday's training)," Gardner said.

"It'll be interesting to see how different it is compared to the first and last game.

"Our team's so great at adapting, no matter what conditions are thrown up at us, to go on the run.

"Whether that's with bat or ball in hand, our team sums those conditions up pretty quickly."

Medal games will be played on the traditional turf wickets that remain on the Edgbaston centre square, in what is cricket's first Games appearance since a men's 50-over tournament in 1998.

The crucial pool game will take place in prime time on Friday night back in Australia and likely decide who tops their group, the loser left with no room to move as only the top two sides progress to semi-finals.

Gardner isn't expecting much support either, given the healthy population of Indians in the host city.

"Hopefully there's a few Aussie supporters, but I'd think we'll be pretty outnumbered," she said.

"It's going to be an awesome thing to be involved in ... the atmosphere that creates is fantastic and to have that support behind women's cricket is amazing."

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