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Prefer slow pitches rather than flat tracks like Delhi, which can hamper confidence, says Harshal Patel

India failed to defend a total of 211 on a belter in the series opener in Delhi, as South Africa lost only three wickets and won with five deliveries to spare.

Harshal Patel, Umran Malik, IND vs SA, BCCI, Rishabh PantIndia's Harshal Patel, right, gestures to ask for a review as South Africa's David Miller runs to score during the first Twenty20 cricket match between India and South Africa in New Delhi, India, Thursday, June 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

After their bowlers defended a total successfully for the first time in three attempts in Visakhapatnam, India face another must-win scenario against South Africa on Friday evening in Rajkot in the fourth of five Twenty20 internationals. And at what has usually been a high-scoring venue, the hosts’ bowling could be tested once more.

India failed to defend a total of 211 on a belter in the series opener in Delhi, as South Africa lost only three wickets and won with five deliveries to spare. In the second match in Cuttack, the batsmen could post only 148; Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s powerplay strikes reduced the South Africans to 29 for 3 but with little help from the surface, the Indian spinners couldn’t capitalise and Heinrich Klaasen belted 81 to carry the visitors to a comfortable win.

Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel had gone for 68 in five overs in Cuttack, and 66 in six overs in Delhi, for a collective two wickets. But they regained their bite in Visakhapatnam and bowled their full quota of eight overs for the first time in the series for four wickets at run-a-ball; the slow surface with some grip and turn helped them squeeze the life early out of South Africa’s chase of 180. The pitch, as well as long straight boundaries, also suited Harshal Patel’s bowling style, allowing him to make good use of his slower ones, both pitched-up and dug shortish into the surface.

Ahead of the Rajkot game, Harshal said that he’d prefer sluggish surfaces such as Visakhapatnam as against the Delhi one, which, according to him, could dent bowlers’ confidence.

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“Although there was not a lot of variable bounce or lateral movement from the (Visakhapatnam) pitch, it was definitely slow. So that allowed us to bowl hard lengths and slower balls into the pitch. It was difficult to clear the boundary from those lengths,” Harshal said.

“I would certainly prefer to play on slower pitches because it allows you a bit of fighting chance. If we consistently keep playing on pitches like Delhi, it can hamper your confidence a little bit.

“We also have world-class spinners in the team, who can bowl well on any pitch, but it does bring them a little more into the game when we have slightly slower pitches and slightly bigger ground dimensions.”

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After the third T20I, Chahal had suggested that he was looking forward to bowling with the extra protection of the bigger square boundaries in Rajkot. However, the average scoring rate in three T20Is at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium has been 9.2 runs an over, indicating unforgiving bowling conditions. But Harshal said that the weather would be a major factor in determining the nature of the surface. Although maximum temperatures in Rajkot are currently in the late thirties, scattered thunderstorms are forecast on Friday afternoon.

“We cannot go by the reputation (of the ground) always as the weather on the day will have a big role in what kind of pitch we get,” Harshal said. “We will have to assess the conditions accordingly.”

First published on: 16-06-2022 at 06:44:10 pm
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