English ‘baz’bowled’

28 February,2024 05:12 PM IST |  Mumbai  |  Srijanee Majumdar

Early signs pointed to trouble when the dark brown, dry and grassless wicket was unveiled from underneath its green covers by the tourists on Friday

England and India will play their fifth and final Test on March 7. Pic/AFP

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‘Never judge a book by its cover'! Implore not upon the exterior, for the narrative within transcends the superficial facade, and the same applies to cricket pitches. The pitch at the JSCA International Cricket Stadium promised to be a slow turner and was expected to last all five days of the Test, according to curators.

The well-watered topmost part of the surface was more than likely to retain just enough moisture to give bowlers with the new ball an upper hand on the opening day. In the same way, it was expected to dry out well under the burning sun, favouring batters for the following 2-3 days before the roughness would bring spinners into play. Nothing went as planned.

Early signs pointed to trouble when the dark brown, dry and grassless wicket was unveiled from underneath its green covers by the tourists on Friday. Having seen the pitch prior to the Test, it appeared as though a hat-trick of dodgy decks could be on the cards, but after Australia made 353 on day one at the JSCA Stadium, that outcome at one time looked unlikely.

"From what we have seen out here, generally, the nature of the pitch is that it gets slower as the game progresses. We expected that. But, to be honest, we didn't expect it to play that low on the second day itself," said India's bowling coach Paras Mhambrey after the end of the day's play on Saturday.

Also Read: Ranchi turns its back on India!

With 17 wickets tumbling in a span of two days and spinners dominating play on the second day, the surface did show signs of turn and variable bounce. Yet, Mhambrey refrained from calling it a ‘rank turner'. Perhaps, he was under the very impression that the bounce was on the lower side of the surface as it appeared.

"I don't think this is a turner, it has a variable bounce on the lower side. There was no instruction from the management to ask for a turner. That's how the nature of soil here has been. It has always been on the slow side. No ball has spun sharply yet, so I wouldn't call it a turner," he asserted. "I think they bowled well. (They) kept a simple line and length. At this level, you expect your opposition to do that. They kept it simple and picked up wickets for that."

In the crucible of Ranchi, where the slow turn and uneven bounce created a symphony of challenges for both sides, the cricketing battle across these three days acquired a unique resonance. Batsmen, once accustomed to the comforts of more predictable surfaces, find themselves engaged in a cerebral and physical duel that transcends the conventional boundaries of Test cricket.

The Ranchi pitch, with its slow turn and unpredictable bounce, emerged as a character in its own right, shaping the narrative of matches and leaving an indelible imprint on the cricketers who tread its surface. It prompted a re-evaluation of strategies, refinement of skills, and an acknowledgement that, in the ever-evolving landscape of Test cricket, adaptability and resilience are the truest measures of a player's mettle.

As the struggle unfolded on the unpredictable Ranchi pitch, it became not just a battle of bat and ball but a testament to the enduring spirit of Test cricket, an art form where the canvas may change, but the essence of the contest remains rooted in the timeless principles of skill, strategy, and the relentless pursuit of mastery.

The slow turner of Ranchi, with its enigmatic challenges, became a crucible where the cricketing soul was tested and where the struggle, far from being a deterrent, became the very heartbeat of the game.

(With PTI quotes)

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