As the Indians were having their first net session at the Oval, the pitch was left to bake under the soft sun. Next to the ‘more green, very less brown’ track, the Indians unpacked their kits while eyeing the 22-yards they would step on this Friday.
When pace all-rounder Stuart Binny padded up first, it seemed the colour of the playing surface was playing on the mind of the visiting team. That was not the case when the English turned up at the ground later in the day. They knew their backyard better.
Two of the three nets had spinners bowling to the English batsmen. The wicket-keeper was enjoying his date with Merlin, that’s what the bowling machine that turns the ball is called. England’s former part-time spinners, Moeen Ali, and present part-time spinner Joe Root, along with a left-arm spinner net bowler, would end up bowling long spells. Ian Bell and Gary Ballance took turns facing them, others were in queue.
So was India sold a lemon? Was the slow turning track dressed up to look like a pace-friendly surface? Maybe, by the end of the session the Indians would have got an idea about the true nature of the central square. Locals say that this is expected to be a slow track which is expected to aid the spinners on the last two days.
That makes a case for the Indians to stick with playing two spinners. The buzz is that the pitch lacks the kind of pace that was seen at Manchester. There will be bounce but the balls wouldn’t take off. Once the grass gets shaved, the mask will be off and the slowest track of this series would emerge.
Not repeating it again
It’s the kind of pitch that suits England perfectly. With the 2-1 lead and Ishant Sharma expected to return to the Indian team, they wouldn’t risk laying out a Lord’s kind of carpet which the Indian pacer loved. Five of Sharma’s seven wickets came off short balls.
Besides, Sharma will have by his side Varun Aaron, the 140 plus pacer who showed that he doesn’t mind aiming for the batsman’s ribs. He dismissed Ali with a big in-swinger but it was the sharp rising ball that had set him up. Later in the Test his ball went into Stuart Broad’s helmet visor. As blood dipped from the England No.9’s nose, Aaron had a reputation and India had found an continued…